How to Improve Your Internet Speed & Save Money
If you are a follower of our blog, then you know that Ariana and I “cut the cord” several years ago and got rid of cable, which saved us quite a bit of money. As entrepreneurs we got the double benefit not only saving money, but also forcing ourselves to watch less TV so that we would have more time for our businesses.
One thing that we procrastinated on but finally bit the bullet on was upgrading our router and modem for internet. Pretty much the only option for internet is our area is Time Warner Cable. Not only is our internet only bill quite high to begin with, but a year or 2 ago they added a $6/month modem “lease” fee. On top of that, we have continuously had issues with the internet dropping connection or with slow speeds. After a few trips out, Time Warner ran a new line to our house, which helped some, but the issues remained. Given that internet is essential to running our businesses, we invested and purchased a new modem and router. Not only do they support newer technology and faster speeds, but it would also help us to determine if some of our internet problems were issue with our Internet Service Provider (ISP) or with our equipment.
Our Previous Equipment
Below is an image of our previous equipment. On the left is the modem that Time Warner conveniently provided us (for $6/month). On the right is a cheap Cisco wireless router that we purchased a year ago for ~$50.
Our Upgraded Equipment
Below is some additional detail about each of the items as well as our initial review.
Motorola SURFboard SB6141 DOCSIS 3.0 High-Speed Cable Modem
From a quick search on Google and Amazon, the two top recommended modems for replacing the leased one from Time Warner were both from Motorola – the Motorola SURFboard SB6141 (which we purchased) and the Motorola SURFboard SBG6580. These are the same modem, the primary different is that the SBG6580 also has a built-in wireless router. So if you are not as tech savvy, that may be a good choice for you. We opted to purchase the SB6141, which is just a modem (and does not contain a wireless router). We did this for a few reasons.
- We could purchase the modem first to see what improvement just replacing the modem made. If we resolved the speed and connection issues, we would not have to update our router and would know that the issue was from the modem alone and could save some money.
- Along the same lines, having a separate modem and router allows you to determine if any potential problems are isolated to one piece of equipment or the other, as well as replace and upgrade them separately.
After purchasing the modem, I installed it and called Time Warner cable to get it switched over. I just had to provide them with the MAC address and it was up and running within 15 minutes.
Initial tests with an ethernet connection from the model to my laptop showed 20 Mbps, which is what our service level (Turbo) indicates that it should be. This result came back numerous times over the next several hours. This was much faster and more consistent than the modem we had from Time Warner.
After using this modem for a day, there were 2 reasons that we decided to purchase a new wireless router.
- Ariana’s computer seemed to be getting 20 Mbps, but for some reason mine was very slow (~2-3 Mbps).
- Some of our devices (ex. our older Roku) were still having random drops in our wireless signal.
So the next day we ordered a new router.
*Note: There are 2 versions of the SURFboard SB6141 available on Amazon. We first ordered the black one, but after having some issues and searching online, we found out this version of the modem is only meant for ISPs and has outdated firmware. Since it is meant for ISPs, you as an individual cannot update the firmware. If you order the white version of this modem, which is the retail version, then you can update the firmware to the latest version. So make sure to order the white version.
ASUS RT-N66U Dual-Band Wireless-N900 Gigabit Router
The ASUS RT-N66U Router was the one that Amazon recommended to go along with our modem, and it seemed to be the popular choice among several Google searches. A few of the features sold us on it.
- It had 2 wireless bands (2.4 GHz and 5 GHz). This means that places with multiple wireless devices can segment them across 2 separate wireless signals (basically 2 routers in 1).
- It is a Gigabit router so it supports fast speeds.
- With 3 external antennas it provides greater wireless coverage.
- The management dashboard had a ton of features that seemed like they would be useful since we had so many devices and needs for our home network.
Using Amazon Prime (which we love), we received the router in 2 days with free shipping. We unboxed it, connected it and had it up and running within 15 minutes. The router has a very sleek design ans a nice stand to position it just right.
1 Week Later: The Verdict
We absolutely love our new setup! We have struggled with internet speed and connection issues for the past year. This was most likely due to a combination of issues from Time Warner, our modem and our router. Two of those items are related to our ISP, so updating our equipment and using our own modem/router provides us more control.
As noted above, we initially purchased the black SURFboard SB6141 modem instead of the white one. We had some issues with it initially, and after swapping it out for the white version things have gone great.
I forgot to run a speed test before we upgraded, but speed was all over the map, often <5 Mbps, even though it should have been ~20 Mbps. As you can see below, with the new modem and router, we now are achieving the speeds that we would expect.
To be honest, we are now kicking ourselves for not upgrading sooner. In total it cost us ~$205 total ($81 for the modem and $125 for the router). Given that internet is so critical to running our businesses, the amount of money we were spending on it each month, the fact that we don’t have cable and the speed/connection issues, we should have upgraded much sooner. It is so much nicer to be able to be able to get work done without internet issues, or having to reset the router multiple times per day. Additionally, we are now saving $6/month because we are not renting the modem from Time Warner, so the modem will pay for itself in a little over a year.