It was an inside job
Starting our fourth decade: Al Fasoldt's reviews and commentaries, continuously online since 1983

Only $40 to make your Wi-Fi stronger

February 22, 2015

By Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 2015, Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 2015, The Post-Standard

Who stole my Wi-Fi?

I should call the cops. But they wouldn't be able to help. It's just not their thing.

Besides, it was an inside job. The boiler did it.

At our home in Countless Pines, we'd been having stolen signal frustrations for years. Our FiOS Internet router is in the lower part of our split-level home, and of course the signal was great down there. But upstairs, the only area that got a decent signal was the living room, right over the downstairs bookshelf where the router sat.

In the bedrooms, at the far end of the house, our tablets and phones had poor Wi-Fi connections.

Clearly, the main culprit was our the huge hot-water boiler and its ducting, arrayed in the middle of the house, combined with foil-backed insulation in some of the walls.

So I did everything a guy could possibly do in such a circumstance: First, I told my wife nothing could be done. Then I spent hours on the web trying to understand Wi-Fi signals. Do they bend around objects? (No.) Do they run out of bounds when some sort of opposing force chases them? (Say what?) Do they have a hard time getting past big metal objects? (You bet.)

Finally, I did what any other red-blooded loafer would do. I gave up.

Months later, I was wandering through Walmart when I spotted a "Wi-Fi range extender" on a shelf. If this wouldn't solve my problem, nothing would. So I pulled out the last remaining credit card with any credit still on it, zipped through the line and headed home. I was sure things would be better.

I'd like to say things were better, but that would be incorrect. They were MUCH better. Far better. Roll me up in plastic and call me a Tootsie Roll better.

Relief cost only $40. That's what I paid for the Belkin Wi-Fi Range Extender, which does something cave-man simple: It grabs your undernourished Wi-Fi signal and force-feeds Dr. Belkin's Amazing Elixer to it, and then -- oh, sorry, that's just my enthusiasm bubbling over. It just picks up the signal and sends it back out stronger. Your original router still works as usual, and your laptop, phone or tablet is able to pick up either signal; they don't even conflict with each other.

There's almost nothing to do to set it up. You just plug it into an electrical outlet and click a few things on your PC or Mac screen to tell it which network is yours.

I chose the upstairs bathroom as the start of the dead spot and it turned out to be a perfect location. We now have great Wi-Fi coverage upstairs and down.

My Wi-Fi network itself didn't change at all; it just got stronger, with a lot more range. There was no way to tell, in normal use, that my network was singing a duet and not a solo.

The range extender can even be unplugged and relocated with no effect on anything else. I can think of many other specific uses for the device, including extending weak hotel or campground Wi-Fi signals. This is one little gadget I'll use all the time.