Diagnosing Home Internet Speed Issues
July 9, 2024 12:18 PM   Subscribe

I live in a large single-family home with internet service via Verizon Fios, using an eight-year-old Verizon-provided Fios Quantum Gateway router, with a mesh Wi-Fi network via five similarly-aged Google Wi-Fi devices spread out through the house. I’m increasingly unhappy with my Internet speed. How do I go about figuring out where the problem is between the speed coming into my house, the router, or the mesh network?
posted by NotMyselfRightNow to Technology (14 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Do a speed test connected to the Wi-Fi. Disconnect the Google Wi-Fi device from the Verizon router, plug a computer directly into the router, and re-run the speed test.

You might want to do this a few times over a few days to see what the average is.

If the speed is similar on the Wi-Fi and directly connected to the router, it's probably a router issue. Just sit on the phone with Verizon until they agree to replace it, do not tell them that you have a Google Wi-Fi device, tell them you are directly connected over ethernet (otherwise they'll just blame the Google equipment).

If the speeds are better directly connected to the router, turn off all of the Google Wi-Fi devices except the one connected to the router, and re-run the speed test. If the speed is good, probably one of your mesh nodes is misbehaving (test each in turn and remove the bad one/ones). If the speed is bad swap the Google Wi-Fi unit that's directly connected to router for one of the other ones, connect it directly to the router, and re-run the speed test. If the speed is still bad, might be time for a new Wi-Fi setup.
posted by gregr at 12:34 PM on July 9 [5 favorites]

The wifi mesh routers interacting with each other may be a potential source of slowdown, in which case testing each one at a time may not detect the "bad" one.

Five access points feels like it's a bit much and there are all sorts of issues that can pop up with mesh routers that are close enough to always see multiple peers. The path your connection takes through the house may be constantly bouncing through different mesh nodes because there's no optimal path. Are you sure you need that many?
posted by RonButNotStupid at 12:49 PM on July 9

Response by poster: Are you sure you need that many?

Fair question.

We have a three story house, about 1000 sq ft on each floor. We have one AP on each floor (three in total), the fourth one is on the back corner of the first floor positioned to cover our patio, and the fifth one is in a detached garage away from the house (likely interacting with the patio-serving AP in the house).
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 12:53 PM on July 9

Response by poster: Just turned off Wi-Fi and plugged directly into the router, and got a good clue where the problem is:

On Wi-Fi, I have download speeds of ~4mbps, and ~50mbps upload.

Directly plugged in, I have download speeds of ~280mbps and upload speeds of ~315mbps.
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 1:38 PM on July 9

If the speed out of the router works well, I'd go right to getting a new mesh system. The Google mesh of eight years ago was pretty dodgy compared to modern routers. Any modern mesh is pretty good right now. We have a Nighthawk system and it's great
posted by advicepig at 1:38 PM on July 9

I'd recommend either skipping the mesh altogether and running an ethernet cable to connect the access points, or if that isn't an option, I'd use mesh routers very sparingly. Every additional mesh router has the potential of cutting the available wifi bandwidth because they need to broadcast everything they receive out to the next node.
posted by RonButNotStupid at 1:59 PM on July 9 [2 favorites]

I have gigabit FIOS and an Eero Pro 6 mesh network. I don't get more than 300-400 Mbps over the wireless network usually. (I am not using the Verizon router at all, just their fiber modem.) I get quite good speeds with a direct Ethernet hookup and all my devices to the Eero access points connect with a 600-900 Mbps base rate. I'm pretty sure I'm limited by the lack of wired backhaul. (I could wire up a couple of them pretty easily but the third is on the other side of the house on a different floor, and to be honest, what we have now is plenty fast enough even though I'm "wasting" more than half of the bandwith I'm paying for.) Might try a Wifi 7 mesh when those get a bit cheaper.

Modern mesh routers are very good. In the Eero lineup you want a model designated Pro, as it has a dedicated wireless channel for the backhaul (communication between routers). It makes a noticeable difference if you can't wire them up. I like the Eero a lot myself, but if you're on a budget, check out the TP-Link Deco series.

Even if you can wire up all your access points, I'd still recommend a mesh system over a collection of non-mesh access points (all mesh systems support wired backhauls between any or all nodes). The Eero system, for example, will notice when you've moved closer to a different access point and transfer you to that one automatically. Without this feature on the network side, devices tend to "hold on" to their current access point until they can't anymore, and only then look for a new one. As you can imagine, this can lead to e.g. your phone being connected to an access point on the other side of the house half the time, with all that that implies.
posted by kindall at 3:29 PM on July 9 [2 favorites]

It does sound like you need a Wifi 6E or Wifi 7 mesh router. Fortunately, their prices have came down a bit. You may be able to skip the patio one by repositioning the ground floor node a little, but no guarantees.

I have a 2-node Eero with Wifi 5 and it has served me well so far, and I got it used! With Prime Day coming it it should be a great time to get an Eero 6 or 6E mesh setup, and it's incredibly easy to setup... Download the app onto a phone, login to your Amazon account, then scan the barcode on the "gateway node" (whichever one you connect to the "modem" hardline) to set that up, then go to where you plugged in the other nodes, and repeat the process. That's it. The system will handle the rest, including autopatching its firmware.
posted by kschang at 7:14 PM on July 9

Oh, and you *may* want to run hard-wire to the garage and give that a separate AP, to increase throughput. And MAYBE skip the 2nd floor node. Or run hardware between the nodes if you have wiring that can support it.

My 2 node Eero Pro with Wifi 5 is connected to my Verizon LTE Home Internet. The gateway node gets 40 down and 6 up. On my PC I measure 20 down and 3.5 up. That's pretty darn good for me, and I can't dig into walls as I rent. :)
posted by kschang at 7:41 PM on July 9

If you're in an older home, and want to try out wired backhaul for mesh like many are suggesting, know that you can convert coax cable TV wiring to Ethernet pretty easily using MoCA adapters.
posted by hovey at 8:14 PM on July 9 [2 favorites]

Great advice from gregr. I was in a temporary office where we were set up with WiFi to save running wires to each desk. It was slow. The IT guys discovered it was not just because the router was servicing about 8 PCs, but also throttled every one down to the slowest device it was talking to.
posted by SemiSalt at 4:52 AM on July 10 [1 favorite]

FWIW, Woot.com has some Reconditioned Eero's on sale now. Woot is an Amazon company, so these are supposedly refurbed to Amazon standards. I know that's not saying a lot. :D
posted by kschang at 12:42 PM on July 10

Wow, those woot eero deals are great, but keep in mind that these are like two generations back (i.e. does not have WiFi 6 or 7). still, it will give you better than what you're getting now for sure. again I will suggest getting a Pro setup, the extra radio for backhaul makes a real difference. just get however many of the eero Pro routers as you need ($55 each). you probably don't need more than three, though.
posted by kindall at 12:53 PM on July 12

you *may* want to run hard-wire to the garage

Try out power-line ethernet to the garage. If that works OK it'll save the hassle of running cable.
posted by HiroProtagonist at 6:12 PM on July 14

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