Disability Hack: Check Your Ethernet Cable If Your Internet Is Acting Wonky

We all know home internet is really important to autistics. It connects us with the world wide community, games, social media etc. Having no internet is the same as being cut off from the world and it is meltdown inducing. 

A few years ago, we switched from cable to DSL internet because the cable company was charging us too much. Since we have switched, the kids have been complaining about internet speed. We also had adult roommates who would hog up the bandwidth with their games while the kids were in virtual school, so I thought nothing of it. 

Our cat, Damian sits on the router a lot. This is important, I will explain. 

Recently, we have had to restart our DSL modem a lot. After restarting it, and doing a test through the service provider, it has been determined that the internet connection was fine. The router is relatively new, we bought it a few months ago after having an apple AirPort Extreme since Roo was 3. 

I looked in the back at the ethernet cable and the plastic clip was broken. Damian, my 12 year old cat with dementia, sits on it. When he jumped on it the last time, the plastic clip broke. 

After I discovered this, mind you people were upset that the internet wasn’t working, so I was investigating. I went on Amazon to search for new ethernet cables. As much as I am into technology, I did not know that there were different categories of ethernet cables. All I wanted was a heavy duty one that would be Damian proof. 

The different categories of ethernet cables and what it means

The ethernet technology has been around since 1973 and invented by Xerox. Useless knowledge but fun to know. This was originally created for work stations, servers and printers to share data and resources. This was birth of the local area networks, or lan. Remember LAN parties in the 90’s?

Characteristics of Ethernet Cables:

  • Speed. The speed of the cable refers to the amount of data that it can receive and send per second. 100 MBPS means it can transfer 100 million bits of data every second. This is extremely important when choosing a ethernet cable. Know the speed of your home internet. If you are unsure, ask your internet service provider. 
  • Shielding. Some ethernet cables are shielded to protect the cables conductors from electromagnetic interference (EMI) which is caused by power lines, large machinery and fluorescent lighting. 
  • Cable length. The maximum length of a cable is about 295 feet (90 meters).  A quality cable with shielding and thicker conductors can reach further but it takes trial and error. In most home situations, the router and modem are right next to each other and you will not need a long cable. 

Categories of Ethernet Cables

The ethernet cables are categorized by category. Categories 1-4 are obsolete when it comes to internet connection. I will be describing categories 5-8.
  • Category 5. This cable was introduced in 1995. Category 5 has a data rate for up to 100 MBPS. It is used in base networks and can distribute data for u pro 100 meters (328 feet). This is what we had before and games were glitching, files weren’t sending, etc. This is what they sell at the big box stores. For people who don’t have a large household, this is sufficient. 
  • Category 6. Cat 6 provides greater bandwidth and data transfer rates up to 1GBPS over 100 m, the same as cat 5. This is also at a shorter distance of 37 meters (121 feet). 
  • Category 7. Category 7 is proprietary standard by a group of companies and not endorsed by IEEE. Only certain people can use it. It is capable of 30 GB per second. 
  • Category 8. This ethernet cable has a bandwidth for up the 2Ghz over 30 meters and a data range of up to 30 GBPS. A cat 8 cable is ideal for switch to switch communication. Or in my case, a lot of different devices on a network and everyone wants the full capacity of the internet speed. This cable is also rated for outside and is strong against the elements. 

What did I ultimately choose?

After doing all this research, I ordered a category 8 cable. I have 8 people here, myself included, who are gamers. Games on the xBox and PC require a lot of bandwidth. We have a large family, all neurodivergent. 
The one I chose is rated for outside and has gold plated connectors. I thought if it was rated for outside, it could handle a cat sitting on the router. I think after that experience, we are mounting the modem and router on the wall so he can’t sit on it anymore. 
Here is the cable I chose. We connected it yesterday and I notice a huge difference. Please take my mistake and prevent meltdowns in your life. Meltdowns are not fun and this is a good way to prevent it if your internet is not acting right. Check your ethernet cable. 

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