Home & Garden

Use an app to measure Wi-Fi speed

Many people work (and network) in public places.
Many people work (and network) in public places. GARY NIELSON

A reader shared a suggestion based on our story last week on Charlotte-area Wi-Fi hotspots. The reader suggested that coffee shops and other places that offer free Wi-Fi should display their wireless network’s speed, much like posting a restaurant health inspection to boost customer confidence.

There’s a reason why Wi-Fi network speeds are important. An estimated 3 million Americans work from home, according to Forbes magazine. Many of those workers, especially entrepreneurs, enjoy taking their laptops, tablets and smartphones to more social places where they can also network. That’s what people told us for our story.

Trial and error can tell you which hotspots have fast networks, but you can use an app, Ookla’s Speedtest.net, for a precise look. You can also access the iOS and Android app using your computer’s browser.

Speedtest can tell you speeds for ping (response time when you send a request), downloads (pulling data from a server) and uploads (sending data).

Here’s a bonus: Use Speedtest at home to figure out whether you’re getting the speeds your service provider charges you for.

The reader who suggests posting network speeds – he didn’t want his name included – found some hotels and other places that claim to have fast Internet service have some of the slowest.

We switched to a speedy service at home that we’re told operates at 18 megabits per second. Not sure if that’s the case, but there’s no gritting my teeth through long pauses, or buffering, when we stream movies.

Karen’s blog: http://www.charlotteobserver.com/living/home-garden/smarter-living/homelife-blog/; on Twitter @sullivan_kms. See earlier Homelife columns at http://homelifeclt.blogspot.com.