Save the Internet: How to Conserve Bandwidth While You’re Stuck at Home

While offices, streets, and other public spaces may be deserted, the internet is more populous than ever before. Vodafone reports that data usage is increasing by up to 50 percent in some countries, leading to potentially significant bandwidth problems. 

YouTube and Netflix have both lowered the quality of their videos to keep data streams functioning properly, and more platforms are finding ways to do the same. While the major players work to keep their portion of the internet intact, individuals need to know how to do the same in their own home.

Major increases in household internet usage can make previously stable connections suddenly choppy and unreliable — two words no telecommuter ever wants to hear. If you’re sheltering in place, you need to be certain that your internet won’t give out on you. 

Discerning Your Conservation Methods

A good place to start would be doing research on what Wi-Fi you have and determining whether there are any upgrades you want to invest in, like adaptive WiFi. According to Bill MacFarland, the CTO of adaptive WiFi provider Plume, traditional Wi-Fi systems only distribute data throughout your house based on its initial snapshot of usage — leading to major speed and quality issues down the line. Adaptive WiFi, on the other hand, continuously adjusts your device connections depending on usage, ensuring the best experience when and where you need it.

However, if you’re in a pinch and need more quick-solve suggestions, there are a few steps anyone can take to reduce the strain on their data usage. If you’re looking for ways to conserve bandwidth in your household, make sure to:

1. Use video chat only when necessary. 

For all of the major benefits that video chat platforms like Zoom have to offer, there can also be some serious drawbacks — namely in the form of internet usage. Esther Yoon, part of the product marketing team at Zoom, recommended that households not play video games or stream movies while someone is chatting with the platform. 

For some workers, conflict between Zoom calls and Netflix streams will be inevitable in their households. Thankfully, internet-draining services like Netflix and YouTube allow you to control your video quality settings. By adjusting those settings to their lowest possible option, you can ensure they’re taking the bare minimum chunk out of your bandwidth at any given time. 

2. Go straight to your apps.

Some of your favorite apps are probably taking major bites out of your bandwidth without you ever even knowing it. Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter all have various data-heavy settings enabled automatically, making their existence quite draining, even if you don’t use them very much. 

Thankfully, some of these platforms offer easy fixes. Instagram has a “use less data” option that can be found in settings. For Facebook and Twitter, it’s not as simple. The biggest data drain each of these platforms has is the video autoplay feature, which loads and plays videos without your even clicking on them. While both allow you to turn off this feature in settings, they may continue to take up bandwidth in other ways — reducing use of Twitter or Facebook platforms will help alleviate this issue. 

3. Create a usage schedule. 

If you’re in a pinch, your best option might be to simply decide who gets to use Wi-Fi and when in your house. While it may seem severe, platforms required for working from home often need large amounts of bandwidth to operate properly — requiring that no other data drains are used at the same time. 

While creating a voluntary schedule with the members of your household is likely the best option, some internet service providers allow you to halt the internet connection of certain devices at certain times. Edith Chao, product manager at Google Wifi, notes that scheduling Wi-Fi usage can not only help free up bandwidth, but it can also allow you to disconnect at a time when the lines between work and home are more blurred than ever. 

Being forced to stay at home for an extended period of time is tough as it is; the last thing you need is to add a faulty internet connection to your list of woes. By either using a smart Wi-Fi solution or employing some of these other quick-solve tactics, you can ensure your Wi-Fi stays functional long enough to get you through the quarantine.