One day of the best internet?
October 1, 2022 7:15 AM   Subscribe

If I am willing to spend money to be sure my internet connection stays completely stable during important Zoom calls on one specific date (or even 3-hour block of one specific date?) what are my options (*beyond* basic steps to get the most out of my current internet)?

For times when I'm giving a public Zoom lecture or interviewing for an opportunity over Teams, and don't want to risk having trouble with my being able to see/hear others and vice versa.

Please assume I have taken some basic steps to get the most out of the internet plan I have (e.g. direct connection to modem via ethernet, testing new modem and router, resetting these, tweaking settings, removing barriers to good wifi signal). I'm interested in what I can do beyond that, like

1) is there a way to pay for satellite internet for a single day (expensive is okay if it's really reliable)
2) handle my slides/webcam over Zoom/Teams, plus a separate login from my phone for audio (so at least audio stays working even if slides/webcam freeze or get delayed)

Has anyone tried these who can comment on how to do them well, or other ideas?

I live in a mid-size city and the internet is mostly okay for daily hours of video conferencing, but sometimes I get bits of issues that seem to be on my end (others in the group report they lost me for a bit, seeing a "internet connection is unstable" message in Zoom). I am stuck with Comcast as my only reasonable option AFAIK, and have tried paying for higher tiers of speed in the past without noticeable impact on the irregular internet connection issues (plus lots of additional fun with Comcast turning OFF all my internet for many hours when I change plans, not risking that again).

posted by rollcredits to Computers & Internet (16 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: if you have a decent cellular data connection you can use that as a backup by using your phone as a hotspot. If you're doing it manually you can probably fail over from your main connection to the other in a minute or two (if you've got everything lined up ahead of time). In the UK I've seen some internet plans that claim to do it automatically but I've not looked into them in detail.
posted by crocomancer at 7:44 AM on October 1, 2022 [4 favorites]

Best answer: How about renting a coworking space for the day? These places have commercial internet, which is generally going to be more reliable.

Satellite internet is not more reliable than a hard connection.

A cellular hotspot might be, if your hard connection is really bad, and is worth looking into.
posted by caek at 7:57 AM on October 1, 2022 [16 favorites]

Best answer: I wouldn't bother with satellite - it's vulnerable to bad weather and has high latency, and basically the only reason to recommend it is that it's available in places where wired service is not. A cellular hotspot backup is a better option in most cases.

If you're using a VPN, I've found I often get noticeably better Zoom connectivity with the VPN off than with it on.

With Zoom if there's a call-in number for the meeting you don't need to do a separate login for your phone, you can sign on to the meeting and then choose the option to use the phone for audio.
posted by mskyle at 8:04 AM on October 1, 2022 [3 favorites]

Best answer: (e.g. direct connection to modem via ethernet, testing new modem and router, resetting these, tweaking settings, removing barriers to good wifi signal)

I'm confused, are you using wifi or not? What exactly is the path from your laptop (or whatever you're running zoom on) to Comcast?

I'd start by trying to reproduce and troubleshoot the dropouts you've seen. The way I'd probably do that would be to write a script that runs 24/7, and, once a second, pings my router, my modem, then the next thing upstream of that in a traceroute, and logs the results. Look for patterns, and it may be obvious which link is the source of the problem. There's probably some easier way.

At home my connection is wifi from my laptop to a wifi router, then ethernet from that to a cable modem, then a coax line that connects the back of my house to an overhead line running with the utility lines behind my house.

The wifi is the most likely culprit. But that outside line is exposed to the elements, and I've had problems with it twice at two different houses--once due to water damage, once due to animals. Comcast unfortunately loves to take the opportunity to try to upsell you; ignore that if they try again. Their lowest plan should be *reliable*, no matter how slow it is. My experience is that if you follow all their troubleshooting steps, and turn down any upgrade offers, they will eventually send someone out, and that person can be quite helpful.
posted by bfields at 8:18 AM on October 1, 2022

I have definitely called on a regular phone to a traditional conference call while using something else for slides to solve this problem. Works great as long as the people on the other end have a decent way to handle conference calls, which they usually do. Pretty common to offer or request this for important stuff in my corner of academia, ymmv.
posted by SaltySalticid at 8:23 AM on October 1, 2022

I've seen quite a few people use secondary logins from different internet (often mobile, when the main is running on house/business) as a backup. If they're already logged in on the second username, it's a lot easier to switch if it completely goes down.

This is also a pretty strong reason why many people offer the video afterward for download to people who participated, either automatically, for free on demand, or for a small fee. It allows them to review it afterward for anything they might have missed, and should be glitch-free when it's recorded from your device. (It also then offers a bonus income stream when sold at a higher price point to those who weren't original participants.) ***Of course, that's when the meeting/lecture/stream/whatever is income-producing. My favorite class/course instructors ALWAYS have backups of the classes.

To plan for the possibility of the power just plain going out, you'd want a universal power supply that would keep your absolutely necessary equipment up and running, with the proper cables to also keep the mobile online. (Where I am, we're much more likely to lose power completely than just our internet. But once the power is out, the router is useless, so a charged mobile is a necessity.)
posted by stormyteal at 8:52 AM on October 1, 2022 [1 favorite]

Zoom allows you to use your phone for audio while using your computer for video, on the same login. It syncs your audio to your video well (i.e., it shows your video when you are talking through the phone). I have used a landline for audio when I am worried about staying connected no matter what.
posted by Mid at 9:31 AM on October 1, 2022 [1 favorite]

How often will you need this service? If starlink is a reliable option for your area you could get one and pay *monthly* (not daily) for service, starting and stopping service as needed by month. I doubt there are any satellite internet services that would allow you to only have one day of service the way you could add data to a prepaid smartphone plan.
posted by firefly5 at 9:43 AM on October 1, 2022

Not sure how Zoom works. The quick switch to cellular could work if you've practiced a few times. My cable internet goes down, I plug phone into computer via USB, turn on phone hotspot, new network connection pops up, open up and switch from normal wifi/cable to phone, hit reload on the page and all is good. It depends on if Zoom will keep/accept a session changing IP address in the middle, like if your cable modem just got a DHCP address change. Some things are keyed on the IP of the client, others are just the cookies or session key or whatnot and will happily continue on if your machine suddenly has a different IP address than it did before, some wont.

There are these boxes and this sort of service that I know little about, but basically.... You have a little box with 3 or 4 different SIMs for different providers and it uses all of them to talk to a VPN like service. So you get triple the bandwidth and also if one is flaky you still have the other two. Then you're down to towers and the first bits of infrastructure before things are split off into the different networks which might have different problems but hopefully not all at the same time.

Do some testing, you might find that cellular is more reliable (especially if you can physically tether to your machine). Beyond that, you're getting into the weeds of Network Engineering which is hard to do at home dealing with Comcast. Consumers can't really manage transparent fail-over without a bunch of work and money.
posted by zengargoyle at 10:21 AM on October 1, 2022

This seriously depends on how potentially flaky your existing internet connection is and how much money you are willing to throw at the problem.

If the problem is with your internet service provider (ISP), either get a better one, or use your cell phone as a backup (and pay for data that way) with something similar to Speedify. Basically, run the app, and it will create a bond between your regular wifi and the phone's own cellular connection, so your PC will talk to remote servers via BOTH routes, and it will balance itself, for either optimum quality, or emergency backup, or whatever you set it to. It obviously has a cost, but I have used it for a while and it *does* work, but I ran into a bandwidth cap at my carrier. :D

But if you just have flakey connections between you and the router, you can make sure you're using 5 GHz band (i.e. 802.11ac or later) or upgrade your network adapter and/or router to WiFi 6. Some can be done with software and drivers, others require $$$ to upgrade / replace hardware.
posted by kschang at 12:28 PM on October 1, 2022 [2 favorites]

1) is there a way to pay for satellite internet for a single day (expensive is okay if it's really reliable)
2) handle my slides/webcam over Zoom/Teams, plus a separate login from my phone for audio (so at least audio stays working even if slides/webcam freeze or get delayed)

Satellite internet isn't going to be as reliable - if you have comcast that's probably going to be your best option. If you live in an area with reasonable cell service you can use a dedicated Cellular modem (or tether to cell phone), but the traffic engineering from cellular providers is even worse than what you get from Comcast/etc. If you go the cellular modem route you're going to want to make sure you are purchasing the service directly from Tmobile/Verizon/AT&T - simply because they lease capacity to other providers and deprioritize that data.

As others has noted you can call in to Zoom, and if you're really worried about it this may be the best option for you.

For what it's worth I think your best option is Comcast, connected directly to the modem or intermediate router. Wifi can be fickle and tuning it can be a pain in the ass.
posted by iamabot at 12:31 PM on October 1, 2022 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thank you all, these are very helpful! Good to know: no satellite, test out double connection to Zoom (audio over phone, video over internet) before it's needed.

@bfields I like your idea of automating speed checks as I've only done manual (clicking go on online speed test website) so that doesn't give as clear a picture.

Regarding confusion over how I'm connecting to the internet, I meant that I have access to and have tried multiple configurations of both ethernet and wifi, and currently settled on a cable ethernet connection as the most reliable but still not perfect (laptop sitting next to modem with cable plugged into modem and laptop ethernet port).

I've done online speed tests with different configurations of those, checking that any cables etc. are recent and able to handle decent speed/data, buying/testing/returning a new modem and router to check if I needed to replace those or get the latest hardware, updating firmware, rebooting modem and router, tweaking router settings.
posted by rollcredits at 5:33 AM on October 2, 2022 [1 favorite]

In my experience, the online speed tests are not useful. Zoom does not need very high speed. It needs stability, which is harder to observe with speed tests. My zoom improved substantially by eliminating wireless hops as much as possible, even though wireless showed good speeds.
posted by Mid at 6:34 AM on October 2, 2022 [1 favorite]

If the Speedify thing does what it claims to do.... that's your answer. Not going into too much detail, I'm ex large university network engineer and did this sort of thing all the time, I'm even the one who does the speedtest things and tested trans oceanic fiber and shit around the world. But that was commercial grade stuff. I'm now in the same boat of consumer grade cable/cell and deal with things just like you. The only difference is that I can tell what's wrong when my cable goes out, just can't fix it.

Speedify sounds and seems like bonding circuits through an endpoint. Same thing I mentioned, you need a 3rd party and an app or some work to totally seamlessly do something like use your cable and cell at the same time with barely a hiccup if one fails, the other one is still there.

If Speedify does that you're good, probably the best you'll get consumer wise without going business and lots of money.
posted by zengargoyle at 7:06 PM on October 2, 2022

This is more a question for the audience than a proper suggestion:
Microsoft Teams has various integrations with other Microsoft products like Office 365, OneDrive, etc etc. Would it use less bandwidth if you were presenting from files saved to one of these cloud services, rather than sharing your own screen?

My guess is that if you're 'presenting' from say, OneDrive, the file is being dished up from a Microsoft server somewhere, rather than streaming from your computer (over your internet connection). If that's the case, it might reduce the load and improve the stability of your connection.
posted by yeahlikethat at 11:14 AM on October 3, 2022

Keep in mind that if this is just for one day, Speedify does have a 30-day money-back offer so you *can* use it for a whole day and hopefully you don't overflow your cellular data cap. :D
posted by kschang at 11:30 AM on October 3, 2022

« Older "Triangle of Sadness" puking scenes?   |   Do my summer clothes fly in Arizona in October? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.