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Options for Poor Wi-Fi or Cellular Service

This article applies to: Computer Recommendations , Faculty , Staff , Students

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If you are working in an area that has restricted, weak, or slow Wi-Fi, or weak cellular service indoors, consider whether these options might be useful. Please note that Cornell does not endorse any particular service, company, or product. These suggestions are meant to provide helpful tips.

Restricted or Insecure Wi-Fi Service

If you're in an area where the cellular signal is strong, a Wi-Fi hotspot can provide better security than a public Wi-Fi connection. It also gives you a way to get your laptop online. You can create a Wi-Fi hotspot using a small, portable Wi-Fi router, or with your cell phone if it provides that feature and your cellular plan allows it. Cornell has contracts with AT&T and Verizon that provide discounts on Wi-Fi hotspots. You can also buy them from retailers that sell electronics.

Weak Cell Phone Signal Indoors

An important first step is to understand the cellular coverage provided where you are. Geography is a big influence in the update New York region, and so is building type and density. In the general Ithaca-area region, AT&T and Verizon provide the most coverage.

If your main concern is phone calls indoors, a no-cost option to consider is whether your cell phone supports Wi-Fi calling. Most newer cell phones have this feature, which lets your cell phone use a Wi-Fi network instead of a cellular network for phone calls.

If your cell phone has good connectivity outside your home, but not indoors, consider a cell phone signal booster. There are a variety of types: small devices that sit on a window, devices that plug into your internet service provider's box, and antenna systems that require professional installation. Cornell has contracts with AT&T and Verizon that provide discounts on signal boosters. You can also buy them from retailers that sell electronics. (For the curious, here's what Cornell does about indoor cellular coverage in its buildings.) 

Slow Wi-Fi at Home

Several factors can contribute to poor Wi-Fi service at home. Things to consider:

  • Check your plan. Make sure the package your purchased from your internet service provider (Spectrum, Haefele, etc.) offers the correct speed and data cap (if any) for what you and others in your home need to do online. You may need to upgrade to a higher level of service.
  • Check for outages. Go to your provider's webpage to see if they have posted any reports of service interruptions or performance problems.
  • Provider support. Follow your internet service provider's recommendations for at-home troubleshooting. 
  • Try a wired connection. Consider connecting your computer directly to your internet modem using an Ethernet cable (instead of using Wi-Fi).
  • Upgrade your router. Consider whether your Wi-Fi router needs to be upgraded. Newer routers provide better speed and home coverage. 
  • Upgrade to a mesh router system. If your Wi-Fi is fast in some parts of your home but not in others, try moving your Wi-Fi router to a more central location in your home. If that doesn't help, you may need to consider a "mesh network" to provide better coverage (Google Wi-Fi or Nest and Amazon Eero are high-profile examples, but there are others from many known router manufacturers). You can buy mesh networks from online and big-box retailers that sell electronics.
  • Too many online devices? Consider disconnecting devices that don't need to be on your Wi-Fi network. Also consider how many people on your network are doing activities that use a lot of network capacity, such as gaming and streaming movies and shows.

Cornell campus outdoor spaces with possible Wi-Fi coverage (Cornell login required)

Internet and Cellular Access Vendors (During 2020 Coronavirus Crisis)

For the best information, contact providers directly. This information changes constantly and is being provided as a starting point.

Occasionally, vendors will provide no-cost temporary upgrades, special deals, and other enhancements if they know it is to support students or instructors involved in online learning during the pandemic. 


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