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Wi-Fi woes

February 24, 2014
by Kathleen Mears
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At my previous facility, I had reliable, wired DSL (digital subscriber line) through the phone company. So when I came to my current facility, I had a desktop computer that was not Wi-Fi-enabled, and I had no Internet access.

To get connected, I purchased a Wi-Fi adapter, and the maintenance man set it up to work with the facility Wi-Fi. I was surprised it was so slow. My old DSL connection was faster. Although the Wi-Fi was too slow for reading or online research, it was good enough to read e-mail. But I missed the faster service I used for more than 10 years.

After a few months, I purchased a USB Wi-Fi device through a phone company. It was expensive ($60 a month) and not as fast as I expected.

My sister suggested that I purchase Wi-Fi through a cable company. She said that, as a private cable subscriber, she was getting Wi-Fi for $40 a month. She thought I could have faster Internet service at a lower cost. I knew the facility had cable lines, and wondered whether I could get private Internet service for myself even if I paid for it.

I e-mailed the administrator to ask about private Wi-Fi, which would be less expensive. She replied that she would talk with the facility’s information technology specialist and get back to me. A few days later, she e-mailed to say they would fix me up.

One morning as I went down the hall, the maintenance man was working above the ceiling tiles. He said he was putting in a router that was about 16 feet from my door and emphasized that it would provide a strong signal. At that point, I realized I was not getting private cable Wi-Fi. But I was pleased to get a stronger Wi-Fi connection for free.

The Wi-Fi works pretty well on most days. I know that weather can affect Internet service and Wi-Fi in particular. Two other residents have laptops also. But it is easier for them to move to another area to get a better signal when they need to do so.

Because of the facility's Wi-Fi quirks, I did some online reading to learn more. I found out that Wi-Fi works best in small buildings (for instance, coffee shop) rather than large buildings such as nursing facilities. Here there are a lot of corners and fewer open areas to allow the signal to move throughout this building. I already know that wired Internet service is better and faster.

I think nursing homes could rethink their Wi-Fi service. The router needs to be centrally located and preferably be installed high in the building. The router should be adequate for the number of desktops, laptops, tablets and smart phones that it will have to support. Perhaps placing smaller routers in different areas of the building might improve service in this facility.

It also would be helpful if Wi-Fi routers were placed high on a wall behind a locked wooden or metal grate. Then the router is secure but accessible if it needs to be reset after business hours or on weekends and holidays.


Kathleen Mears

Kathleen Mears has been a nursing home resident in Ohio for 20 years. She is an incomplete...