Many times when in conversations online about connectivity issues with Zoom, there is often confusion about internet capability and how it effects your Zoom call experiences. Comments like, "I don't get it. I can stream Netflix just fine..." are common, and I was among them! I was able to learn what my issue was and fix it, and I want to pass this knowledge on to you.
If you are having no issues with your streaming services, but are having trouble in Zoom, it is likely because you have excellent DOWNload speeds, but slow UPload speeds. Most residential internet is optimized for download, because we are most often trying to bring data INTO our homes, not send it out. In the time of COVID, though, and in the case of trying to teach and/or learn from home, our needs are a little different.
I had terrible Zoom issues at my studio at the beginning of the pandemic. In fact, more frustratingly, it would be fine for about 45 minutes to an hour of classes, and then BAM! At 8pm like clockwork, we would be stuttering and freezing such that it was impossible to hold class at all. I was frustrated and losing hope that I would be able to make it work. Luckily, I have a husband who Knows All The Things about technology and suggested I run a speed test or three at different times of the day when I might want to use Zoom, and see what my speed UP was. So I ran some speed tests (link below for that). I did the first ones during the day--aka low usage hours in my area--for a control group, then ran tests in the evening with some helpful, patient students and friends.
Sure enough, the speed test revealed just what was happening. When I ran tests, I was getting 70-80 Mbps down, and 5 Mbps up...until about 7:45/8:00 pm. At that time, it would dip significantly--as low as .7 Mbps up during "prime time" in my area. I confirmed this with a few calls to the tech help desk with my internet provider as well. They were seeing the same dips at the same time due to the entire neighborhood using regional internet services around the same time of day.
A little research showed that Zoom wants about a MINIMUM of 2Mbps for "group calls", but the minimum gets higher with greater data load. This means a one-on-one call takes less bandwidth than a group call, and also the higher quality video you want to offer, the better sound you want to offer, and every additional student will add to your overall load.
I was lucky we had a fiber internet option in my area, and now I have ridiculous speed both directions and no issues. You can run a speed test at this provided link. Make sure you do it during a time of day when YOU will hold classes, because it can look very different depending on time of day. If possible, do it with as close to the conditions you hold your classes, aka number of students, video quality, lighting, and sound in the mix can all effect your results:
If you find your speeds are low, talk to your internet provider about options. In talking with fellow teachers there are a number of possible solutions they may be able to offer. If your speeds aren't all that bad, the next step is to check how far you are from your router, upgrading your router, or adding a WiFi booster to your home set-up. Of course the best option is to hardwire to your internet, to remove any connection degradation from wireless internet.
Steps beyond that, which your internet provider may be able to offer could be upgrading the wiring to your home, and/or upgrading their tech at the street. One of my dancer's internet provider noted that some of their tech at the nearest telephone poll was due for repair/upgrade, which they did at no cost to her and fixed her issues right away. Alternately, they may be able to offer you a different package, with better speeds in both directions, and/or upgrading to fiber internet, if it is available in your area. This one will likely cost you more, though how much will vary widely. I was lucky to be close to the nearest fiber connection, so minimal work on their end, and they had a sale on new customers. I was able to close one account and open a different account (it meant being without internet between the two, so not everyone will be able to do this), costing me about $100 for a new router that could handle the upgraded tech, but only $5 more a month for ludicrous speed improvements over my old internet.
Whatever your issue, and whatever your solution, I hope you are able to track down the culprit and nip it in the bud! Happy dancing!
Shay is the owner, director, and headmistress of Deep Roots Dance, Studio Deep Roots, and Deep Roots Live! Sharing the exciting and surreal journey into teaching online during the time of COVID-19, and the joys of staying connected to community when it seems the world is literally trying to keep us apart.