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Why you probably aren’t getting the internet speeds you’re paying for (and how to tell)

Why you probably aren’t getting the internet speeds you’re paying for (and how to tell)

Your ISP advertises a 40 megabit per second connection, but that doesn’t look anything like the download speed you see when you’re grabbing a big file. What’s the deal? Are you not getting all the bandwidth you’re paying for?

The package deal I have through my local ISP is for a 40Mb connection (that’s the wording they use). When I download files I get around 4.5-5 (and definitely not 40!) Now… this doesn’t seem to be a big deal, because I can download everything I want pretty quickly, YouTube doesn’t stutter or anything, I never have to wait to load my email or web page, etc. But if I’m paying for a 40Mb connection why am I not getting a 40Mb connection?

This is a fun question because it allows us to discuss and clear up a common misconception, and learn a little bit about computer history along the way.

Let’s start by delving back into the history of computer networks. Data transfer over networks has always been measured in bits. A bit is the smallest and most basic unit of measurement in computing and digital communications. Bits are most commonly represented in the binary system, via 0 and 1. Bit, in fact, is a contraction of the the longer phrase “Binary Digit”.

The speed of a network is denoted using a bit-per-second notation. Originally, networks were so slow that their speed was measured in just bits, but as network speeds increased, we started measuring internet speed in kilobits per second (remember 56k modems? That meant 56 kilobits per second), and now, megabits per second.

Now, here’s where things get confusing for the average non-geeky-Joe. Computer storage is not measured in bits, it’s measured in bytes. A bit, as we’ve established, is the tiniest unit of measurement in the digital kingdom, that primordial 1 or 0. A byte, however, is a unit of digital information that (in many operating systems, including Windows) is eight bits long. Another term, used by computer scientists to avoid confusion over the different size byte structures out there in the world, is octet. In other words, the byte system that your operating system uses is a bunch of bits strung together in groups of eight.

This difference is where, on the surface, it all seems to fall apart. You see, you have a broadband connection that is capable of 40 megabits per second (under ideal conditions, 40,000,000 bits come down the line). But your operating system and all the apps on it (web browsers, download helpers, torrent clients, etc.) all measure data in megabytes, not megabits. So when you see that download chugging along at 5MB/s, that means megabytes per second–as opposed to your 40Mb/s, or megabits per second, internet package. (Note the MB vs Mb notation.)

Why you probably aren’t getting the internet speeds you’re paying for (and how to tell)

If we divide the speed of your connection (measured in megabits) by 8, we arrive at something resembling the download speed you’re seeing in your speed tests: 40 megabits divided by 8 becomes 5 megabytes. So yes–if you’re seeing closer to 5 megabytes per second on a 40 megabit plan, you are indeed getting what you pay for (and can even pat yourself on the back because you’re getting downloads speeds consistently at the edge of what your internet package supports).

Keep in mind that not all downloads will max out your connection. Some may be much slower, not because your internet is slow, but because the server you’re downloading the file from is busy or slow.

Why you probably aren’t getting the internet speeds you’re paying for (and how to tell)

How fast is your Internet connection? Sure, your Internet service provider has given you some numbers, and your cellular provider probably says you get blazing fast 4G LTE. But how fast is it, actually?

What This Does

You can’t just rely on the download speeds you see when downloading files and doing other normal things. Download speeds you’ll see depend on a lot of things, including the remote server and the number of “hops” (Internet routers) in between you and the server. It may not even just be the Internet infrastructure itself — the remote server may only want to give you so much download bandwidth, or it may be bogged down.

Instead, you’ll need to test this a bit more scientifically. The ideal would be to find a server nearby you, one that has a large amount of bandwidth available. You could then try to download from it and upload to it, seeing just how high your download and upload speeds could reach. This ensures you’d just be measuring the last-mile connection speed between you and your ISP as accurately as possible.

That’s why you need dedicated tools for measuring your connection speed.

Why you probably aren’t getting the internet speeds you’re paying for (and how to tell)

Best Practices For Connection Speed Testing

If you want to get the most accurate result possible, you can’t just run the tool once without thinking about it. Here’s what you really need to do:

Ensure You Aren’t Using Your Internet Connection: Is someone else streaming Netflix in the other room, or are you downloading files via BitTorrent on your computer? Pause all these applications using your connection before performing a speed-test. Ensure the speed-test application is the only thing using your connection, and you’ll be able to measure it more accurately. If the tool can’t saturate your connection, the numbers you’ll see will be low.

On a smartphone or any other type of mobile data connection, just ensure your device isn’t downloading or uploading data in the background.

Measure More Than Once: A single measurement isn’t the be-all, end-all of connection speeds. Measure more than once, preferably at different times during the day. For example, you may have faster Internet connection speeds during the middle of the night when everyone is sleeping and slower connection speeds in the evening when your neighbors are home from work and using their home Internet connections.

On a smartphone or any other type of mobile data connection, your speed will depend on how many people around you are using data, as well as the signal quality in your area, and other factors. Move around between speed-tests and you can see how your connection speed varies between different locations. As with a wired Internet connection, the time of day can affect things — you’ll probably have a slower connection speed at lunch time in the central business district than you will if you tried the speed test ta the same location on Sunday when no one else is around.

How to Test Your Connection Speed

The actual process of measuring your connection speed is simple. The gold standard for this is Speedtest.net, and that’s the one we recommend you use. A quick web search reveals many other tools, with even Comcast and AT&T offering their own speed-test applications. Using it on your computer is as simple as visiting the website and clicking the “Begin Test” button.

Why you probably aren’t getting the internet speeds you’re paying for (and how to tell)

On a smartphone or tablet, free Speedtest.net applications are available. Download them from your app store of choice, launch them, and test your speed. Remember, if your smartphone is connected to a Wi-Fi network, the app will test the speed of the WI-Fi network. Disconnect from the Wi-Fi network and it will test your smartphone’s data network.

Warning: Using any sort of speed-test app involves both downloading and uploading some data. If you have a limited amount of mobile data, this will count toward your cap. The app works by attempting to download and upload data at maximum speed for several seconds, maxing out your connection. It could use as much as 20 MB of data per speed test, or even more — the faster your connection, the more data it will use. Take this into account.

Why you probably aren’t getting the internet speeds you’re paying for (and how to tell)

Yes, there are other speed-testing websites and apps out there. But they all work in a similar way — they provide very fast, nearby servers that attempt to max out your connection. Under these ideal conditions, they can provide you with a reasonably accurate estimate of just how fast your connection is when it comes to both uploading and downloading.

Why you probably aren’t getting the internet speeds you’re paying for (and how to tell)

Checking on the quality of service of what you are paying for is important to every business, it will give you the reflection of its value and worth. No one company would ever want to pay for nothing, right?

One of today’s major players in giving an essential service is the Internet Providers. With the growth of several advancements and innovations, an Internet Provider must strive to meet the requirements of different companies, establishments, or enterprises.

But once connected and subscribe, here lies an important question from most of the businesses, why aren’t you getting the Internet speed you are paying for?

Let us find out related factors that will give you answers and a definite clarification. Ready? To start with, identifying the actual and advertised Internet speed offers.

Whenever a business owner or decision-maker looks for the right Internet Service Provider, their major references are the advertisements they are seeing from various ISPs or telecommunications companies. They first look into the plans presented going down to the needed details for their application.

So, how to carefully cross-check if you are picking up the right provider for your business’s connection and communication? See these helpful pointers and guide:

  • Check on the Mbps or its bandwidth capacity. Choosing the right Internet connection is also getting the suited speed for your business. Keep in mind that not everything you see can give its actual service. (You may check on our previous articles for further reference, high-five!)
  • Sight on the type of connection they are offering, is it the traditional cable connection or the advanced and latest Fiber Connectivity? Just a quick input, Fiber connection is known as one of the fastest medium used and offered by many Internet Providers in the Philippines for its “speed of light characteristics.”
  • Lastly, take note of your providers’ choice area of feasibility because of distance matters. Related to this, you may want to consider trying out their free trial for you to be able to check if this ISP can deliver hassle-free connectivity in your business.

Moreover, for you to ensure the worth of the service you are about to avail of, you must know the requirements of your business and test if it fits your operations and transactions. Remember the most common yet important thing to do, the speed test.

Take note that the speed test provides you a measure of the speed between a device and a test server using the device’s Internet connectivity.

Now that we are done with sorting these marketed or offered plans, moving forward is the actual checking of the provider’s capacity to serve your business with the much-needed speed.

We are now going to know the actual measurement and identification of the right access provider. For this, there are three major elements you need to check and evaluate:

  1. Upload Speed – It is very essential to learn the upload speed capability of the Internet Provider you are choosing, especially when you are running a business to which upload is the primary communication to your clients. Again, the faster, the better. Who would not want a smooth and direct transaction?
  1. Download Speed – Of Course, if there is an upload speed, you should also have a great download speed or else, you can expect the worst.
  1. Your business’s operations and activities – And when you are determined with your business’s connection choice, do the internal evaluation. Assess your business’s activities. Are you heavily-reliant on a strong Internet connection or the common office set with sending and receiving of emails as well as processes?

There you have it! Are we making sense now? If you do not see any of the above clarifications, then think again about the provider you currently have or about to get. Don’t let your company suffer from idle connections that can hamper success.

Although these things may sound detail-demanding, it is always and always better safe than sorry. Yup, this one applies to what we are talking about right now. Like we always say on our blogs, we do not want a business client to experience bad times and headaches all because of an inefficient Internet for a business connection.

Being cost-effective is crucial for many Internet Service Providers in the Philippines. Therefore, a careful assessment, checking, and speed testing must be done. And we know that this is a bit challenging, especially when your business is in an urgent state of having the right fit connectivity provider.

But hey, partner! It is never too late to get answers and solutions for this! We got your company’s back and connection with our Fiber4Business! The best-unlimited Fiber Broadband in the metro that continuously grows to provide and deliver businesses of all types the perfect Fiber connection.

Get it by subscribing to InfiniVAN, Inc. All you need to do is share with us your company’s needs and let us do the work for you!

Be served by the premium Fiber access for business today!

Why you probably aren’t getting the internet speeds you’re paying for (and how to tell)

Your Internet service provider probably wants to sell you a faster Internet connection. Pay more money every month and you’ll get faster Internet speeds. It sounds simple, but do you really need those speeds, and when would they be useful?

How Fast Is Your Connection Now?

Why you probably aren’t getting the internet speeds you’re paying for (and how to tell)

If you’re curious about what Internet speeds you’re getting from your Internet service provider (ISP), run a connection speed test. For the most accurate results, don’t just head to the website and click the button. First, be sure nothing else is already using your Internet connection.

You can also check the speed tier you’re paying for using your account on your ISP’s website, or by looking at your monthly bill. There’s a good chance your ISP offers even more expensive plans. If you’d like to pay more for a faster Internet connection, your ISP will be very happy to let you do so—assuming the infrastructure is in place to offer it to you in your area.

The trouble is, you may not actually get the speeds you’re paying for in the first place, depending on your ISP, the infrastructure in your area, and your neighbors. That’s why the speeds are advertised as “up to” a certain speed.

Will You Notice a Faster Connection?

Bear in mind that getting a faster Internet connection won’t actually speed up everything you do online. In many cases, speed is limited by the site you’re connecting to. If you visit a website, it won’t necessarily max out your Internet connection to deliver you the web page. If you download a file from somewhere, the download speeds may be slow because the site is slow–not you’re connection. But, overall, you’ll probably experience faster downloads with a faster connection.

On the other hand, streaming videos from a service like Netflix or YouTube won’t necessarily get a benefit from faster speeds. Yes, at low speeds you’ll be forced to use lower quality settings and perhaps wait for buffering. But, once you get to a certain speed, you’ll be able to stream high-resolution video. Going beyond that speed won’t get you “smoother” video.

On the other hand, remember that your connection is shared between all the people, devices, and apps on your house. So yes, you may not need a faster connection to watch Netflix on the highest HD quality setting. But you might need a faster connection if several people wanted to watch Netflix in HD at the same time or if you wanted to use Netflix at high-quality while downloading a large video game or other large file at the same time.

How Much Bandwidth Do Streaming Services Use?

Why you probably aren’t getting the internet speeds you’re paying for (and how to tell)

Download speeds can increase dramatically with faster connections. There’s no theoretical limit—it’s all up to what the remote server can provide. But, if all the files you want to download already do so quickly, you don’t necessarily need more speed.

For streaming, you only require a certain amount of speed. For Netflix HD streaming, Netflix says it will take 5.0 Mbps (Megabits per second). Other services—from YouTube to HBO Go—should require a similar amount of bandwidth for their HD, 1080p streams. If you’re using Netflix’s 4K UHD stream, that requires 25 Mbps. Music streams require much less bandwidth than video streams.

Take all this into account. If you’re using a Netflix HD stream, upgrading from 25 Mbps to 50 Mbps won’t really help you—Netflix’s bitrate is the bottleneck, not your internet speed. But upgrading from 5 Mbps to 15 Mbps would definitely give you some wiggle room, allowing you to handle multiple streams or a stream and some downloads without problems.

And, of course, if you have multiple devices in your home that often simultaneously stream content, you’ll need to take this into account as well.

Upload Speeds Matter, Too

Why you probably aren’t getting the internet speeds you’re paying for (and how to tell)

Your Internet connection has two speeds that matter. The most important is download speed—the speed you can download something from a remote server. ISPs normally trumpet and promote their high download speeds.

The other is upload speed—the speed at which you can upload something to a remote server. This is often dramatically slower than the download speed in an equivalent plan, but it can matter. For example, when syncing files to Dropbox, uploading photos to Facebook, putting videos on YouTube, or having a Skype video call, your upload speed can make a difference.

So, don’t forget about upload speed when looking at Internet connection speeds. You may need to read the fine print here if you’re comparing plans between different ISPs.

In some cases, there may be other benefits to higher Internet connection tiers. For example, if your ISP imposes a download limit on your Internet connection, you may have a higher limit if you pay for one of the more expensive connections. You may also get a faster Internet connection included if you sign on for additional services, such as landline phones and cable TV.

It’s probably been a while since you signed up for internet service, but you should have an idea of how fast your plan is. If not, give your ISP a call. Write down your plan’s maximum download and upload speeds. You can then use these speed-testing websites to see just your wifi’s actual performance stacks up to what you’re theoretically paying for.

Before you begin, one quick word on testing: You’ll want to run a few speed tests at different times of the day across different sites, just in case your connection is suffering from congestion or any of the sites are under-reporting your speeds for whatever reason.

Fast by Netflix

Fast.com certainly lives up to its name, providing you with an almost immediate measurement of your download speeds in Mbps (megabits per second). If you click on “Show More Info” once the site’s measurement is finished, you can also test your upload speed and latency— how long it takes a webpage to start loading after you click a link. Fast.com also has an app if you want to check your speeds from your iOS or Android device.

TestMy.net

The speeds you see when testing your internet connection in the morning might not reflect the speeds you can expect to get in the afternoon or at night, when everyone is firing up Netflix after work . With TestMy.net , you can keep a tab open in your web browser and automatically measure your internet speed at different intervals throughout the day, which can help you figure out whether your ISP or your bandwidth-hogging neighbors are to blame for your connection.

Ookla Speedtest

The Ookla Speedtest measures your download speed, upload speed, and latency, and separate apps are also available for checking the same statistics on iOS , Android , and your Windows or Mac computer. Create an account to save your results and chart all of your readings, which can help you figure out whether your speeds are falling (or improving) over long-term testing.

Measurement Lab Network Diagnostic Tool

If you need more detailed information than some of the other internet speed tests provide, consider Measurement Lab’s Network Diagnostic Tool . It isn’t flashy at first—giving you basic information on latency, download speeds, and upload speeds—but selecting the Details tab will show you even more advanced information : your packet loss, any network congestion, duplex mismatches, and whether it thinks you might have a cable fault (to name a few options).

SourceForge Internet Speed Test

Numbers only tell so much of a story. You can run a bunch of tests, sure, but how much speed do you really need to stream a movie or play an online game? SourceForge’s Internet Speed Test gives you many of the same statistics as our other options, but it also recommends services you’ll be able to use (or should avoid) based on your ping, download and upload speeds, and a combination of your packet loss, jitter, and latency. You’ll know, rather quickly, whether services like Skype, Netflix, or VoIP are worth trying on your connection.

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DISCUSSION

My typical experience:

1.) Check “speedtest.net” or one of 1000 other sites that check your SPEEEEED.

2.) Be told that I’m getting the BLAZING FAST download speeds that I’m paying for!!

3.) E xperience laggy as shit download speeds from just about every place I DL from.

It’s like just about anything computer related that is benchmarked. USB , up to 480MBPS you say? Has ANYONE ever gotten more than 3-4MBPS? Oh, well it’s the hardware, and the OS, and the file system, and everything else. Well that’s like saying my car has a top speed of 175mph, not accounting for wind resistance and gravity.

Trying to pick out the right internet plan for your home? Here’s how to get the speed you need without overpaying.

Whether you’re moving to a new place or simply shopping around for new options, trying to figure out an internet plan can be more complicated than you might assume . Most plans have you pay for your internet speed and capacity, which prompts the question: How much internet speed do you really need?

Most internet service providers usually have a guide on their websites, but guides like those will sometimes try to upsell you on the benefits of faster speeds you might not actually use. We’re here to help you understand just how much internet you need to be paying for.

As with most services, your goal is to pay for what your unique usage needs require. An older couple who only need the internet to look things up from time to time and keep up with the grandkids probably doesn’t need as much as an avid gamer or streamer, for instance. So let’s break things down a bit and see how much home internet speed you really need.

How fast is fast enough?

The Federal Communications Commission defines anything faster than 25 megabits per second as “advanced service.” For most, however, this is probably closer to the bare minimum. In March, a bipartisan group of senators called on the FCC to raise the bar for broadband by setting minimum speeds at 100Mbps.

At any rate, if you make use of the internet on an everyday basis, you’ll want to aim for something a little higher than 25Mbps if you can. With smart home gadgets growing in prevalence and our media consumption increasingly driven by streaming, it makes sense to opt for something closer to 100Mbps if plans like those are available in your area (and, frustratingly, in a lot places they still aren’t).

It’s also important to note that having a fast internet package doesn’t guarantee fast internet.

Network congestion, poor router placement, interference from nearby networks and other factors can all slow things down. To find out whether your internet speed is truly to blame, check out our guide on how to test your connection .

How much internet do you use?

These days, with so many people working from home, a lot of us are using more internet than we’re used to. However, that isn’t the case for everyone, which you’ll want to keep in mind as you’re shopping for an internet plan.

If you work from home, stream lots of high-resolution videos or regularly play games online, you’ll likely need more internet speed than someone who casually goes on social media platforms and gets their TV from a cable provider.

Different activities require different internet capabilities — here’s a small chart to help give you an idea:

Internet speed recommendations

Activity Usage required Our recommended speed
Email 1Mbps 1Mbps
Web browsing 3-5Mbps 5-10Mbps
Social media 3-5Mbps 10Mbps
Video calls 3-5Mbps 10-20Mbps
HD streaming 5-10Mbps 10-20Mbps
Online gaming 3–6Mbps 25-35Mbps
4K streaming 25Mbps 35Mbps

How many people or devices are using your network?

Another important factor to consider in your search for the ideal internet speed is how many users and devices are on your network in a given day. Your household may only consist of one or two people, but it could be hosting 10 to 15 devices (laptops, cellphones, gaming consoles, smart TVs, smart home gadgets, you name it). If you’re using these devices consistently, then you’ll want to ensure your internet speed has the bandwidth to cover them all.

Video is often the biggest bandwidth hog, so aim for an internet plan that can accommodate your viewing habits. If it’s applicable, think of the times you’ve streamed Netflix or taken a video call from Mom, then imagine everything else that could have been happening on your network at the same time and use the chart above as a rough guide. For instance, if you live on your own and like to tweet about your favorite show on your phone while you stream it in 4K on your TV, you’d want at least 35Mbps for smooth playback and another 10Mbps to keep up on Twitter. Sounds like a 50Mbps internet plan might be close to your sweet spot.

Upload speed vs. download speed

As you’re considering speeds, it’s also important to understand the difference between upload and download speeds. The difference is simple — upload speeds tell you how fast you can send data out to the internet, while download speeds tell you how fast you can pull data from the internet.

In most cases, you’ll be using download bandwidth more often than upload, but it’s important to consider both. This is especially true if you’re working from home, as upload speeds are important when you’re trying to make a video call or email a large attachment.

Many internet providers offer plans with less upload speed than download speed.

With plans like these, the ratio is typically 1Mbps of upload bandwidth for every 10Mbps of download bandwidth. For instance, you’ll see lots of internet plans with download speeds of 25Mbps and upload speeds of 3Mbps, following that FCC standard mentioned earlier. That’d probably be enough to comfortably stream video in regular HD, but with only a few megabits per second of upload speed, your video calls might be choppier than you’d like.

Everything you need to know about data caps

Something else to look out for during your search for your home’s ideal internet speed is data caps. Internet data caps are ISP-enforced data usage limits — it’s important to take them into consideration as you shop, especially if you use your internet for high-usage activities like streaming Netflix or scrolling through social media. Video-heavy use cases like that eat through lots of data, and if you hit the data cap, you’ll need to pay extra for an additional allowance.

Low-speed internet plans — a 10Mbps DSL connection, for example — are typically intended for light internet usage, so the data caps that sometimes come with them can be painfully tight . Meanwhile, some providers offer plans with no data caps at all.

If you’re unsure whether it’s worth paying for a higher data cap or switching to a provider that doesn’t use them, check with your ISP to see if they offer any tools to help you track your household’s data usage (most do, usually via their app). That’ll give you a better sense of how much you need and whether you need to make a change.

Bring your home up to speed with the latest on automation, security, utilities, networking and more.

Now you’re ready to start your search

Now that you have a general idea of everything that goes into internet plans and the aspects you need to consider when choosing one, you are ready for your search to begin. And if you have more questions about your internet package, be sure to check out the rest of our broadband coverage. Among other helpful guides, we can help you tell how fast your internet speed really is , how to make sure your Wi-Fi is ideal for working from home and how to improve streaming quality .

Why you probably aren’t getting the internet speeds you’re paying for (and how to tell)

Are you getting the right internet speed provider advertised? Let’s say, your paying 500Mbs but according to speed test, you are only getting roughly 50-90Mbs. You contacted your Internet Services Provider and they told you that “You have a slow computer”. Well, maybe yes or no, the internet service provider has an incentive to be as optimistic as possible. Deals and offers are sometimes misleading.

Here are the common factors involved why your internet speed slows down.

Hardware Problems Well, as motioned above, an old device might cause internet speed. Old computers and routers can’t keep up with modern internet technologies. A poorly configured router or Wi-Fi connection can slow down your internet speed. You might replace your old device to experience the connection you are paying for.

ISP Range The distance of your internet and service provider’s hardware will affect your internet speed. Cities and highly developed places have faster connections than in the countryside.

Shared Connection Customers with the same internet connection lines can result in congestion. Overcrowding will slow down your internet speed. Imagine your neighbors downloading and uploading gigabit of files, it will affect you big time.

Why you probably aren’t getting the internet speeds you’re paying for (and how to tell)

Peak Hours If more people are using the internet during peak hours with a shared connection line, you may experience slower speed.

Internet Throttling Your internet service provider intentionally limit your internet speed connection. learn more about throttling here: How do you know if you are being throttled?

Server Issue This is based on where you are uploading or downloading from, what server the website is using. Let say, you’re in the US and experience slow download speed from a website in Europe, it may not be your provider’s fault, it may be because the website in Europe has a slow server connection.

Many factors can affect your internet speed connection and it is hard to know what causes the problem. If you experienced slow internet speed, check what is mentioned above. If your connection is not as advertised, You may able to switch providers or upgrade to a higher plan.

There are several potential reasons for a slowdown, and a few easy fixes that should get you up and running again.

Why you probably aren’t getting the internet speeds you’re paying for (and how to tell)

It’s always good to test your home Internet speeds to make sure you get what you pay for. (Photo: Getty Images)

You’re paying a lot of money for your Internet connection, whether it’s a basic 1.5 megabits a second package or a top-tier 100+Mbps screamer. It only takes a few minutes to make sure you’re getting your money’s worth. Unfortunately, that isn’t always the case.

If your internet feels like it’s dragging, it might not be you. There are several reasons for a slowdown, and I’m going to walk you through examining your connection so you can find the one affecting you. From there, you can talk to your Internet provider to get it back to the level you’re paying for, or maybe get a break on your monthly bill.

Before we go into that, however, let me explain a common Internet misunderstanding. While Internet providers like to sell you on the idea that you’re paying for speed, and many people in the tech community talk about Internet speed as well, what you’re paying for is bandwidth. While speed is a part of bandwidth, there’s more to it.

Say you’re watching an HD video on Netflix via a 50Mbps internet connection. The HD video is only going to be using a tenth of your connection’s capacity because that’s all it needs. Paying for a 100Mbps connection isn’t going to make the video smoother or higher quality.

Don’t get me wrong. There are plenty of reasons to have more bandwidth. You can watch multiple Netflix videos while also playing games, checking Facebook, backing up your computer, streaming music, browsing the Internet and other things simultaneously without hiccups.

In other words, having more bandwidth is like adding another lane to the highway. The speed limit is still the same, but you can have more cars traveling at top speed at once.

Even if you haven’t noticed a slowdown in your Internet connection, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re getting all the bandwidth called for in your plan. You might just not be using your connection heavily enough to notice.

It’s still a good idea to run the tests. You might be able to scale back on your Internet plan and save some months. Click here to learn more about making that decision and other ways to save on your Internet bill right now.

Test your internet connection speed

To get started, you need a way to measure your Internet speed that’s a little more precise than, “Well, it seems slow.” One free testing service is Speedtest.net. It’s simple to use but gives plenty of detailed information.

Before you begin a Speedtest, make sure everything is properly set up. If you’re running Speedtest on a desktop or laptop, plug it directly into your router or cable modem. Don’t use a gadget on Wi-Fi since Wi-Fi has its potential speed problems that can skew results.

You should also make sure that none of your other household gadgets is using the Internet. Stop any video streaming, file downloads or online gaming. You will get lower figures if something is hogging your connection while you are performing the speed test. By the way, if you want to know who is the bandwidth hog in your home, click here for the steps to uncover that mystery.

Go to Speedtest.net and click the green “Begin Test” button. It will automatically select the best server near you and then run tests to figure out your download and upload speed. Don’t worry if your upload number is much lower than your download speed. That’s normal.

Helpful reference: “Mbps” stands for Megabits per second and “kbps” stands for kilobits per second. 1,000 kbps is equal to 1 Mbps.

Once the test is complete, you can try it again or run another test with a different server. To use a different server, just hover over a green dot on the map screen and click on a server name or location. For the best speed comparison, it’s best to use the same server.

Reading your test results

One test isn’t going to tell you much. Run tests for a few days in the morning, noon or afternoon and evening. If you’re up late, run tests then, too. You’re looking for any time-based slowdowns.

At the top of the Speedtest page, click the “Results History” link to see your past speed tests. The chart depicts how your speed is changing over time.

If the numbers are fairly consistent, match them to the numbers your provider says you should be getting. It won’t match exactly, but if the average is 75% or less of what your provider advertises, you need to call the company and alert them to the problem.

If the speed is 50% slower, ask to pay the same amount as the next tier down. In both cases, politely request for a prorated credit on your account or other concessions.

If you have inconsistent numbers based on the time of day, see how the highest number compares to your internet plan. You might have another problem with your connection.

If you modem is more than a few years old, there are faster and more reliable standards. It’s never worth renting a modem from your provider. Buy your own to save money. Click here for my modem buying guide.

The same holds true if your router is older. Click here for a review of the best routers to speed an internet connection. You can even try a few settings tweaks of your own, such as changing the DNS settings.

Don’t be afraid to shop around for another connection. If there aren’t any other cable providers in your vicinity, and your provider is being unhelpful, consider complaining on social media. That seems to get the right people’s attention.

Finding the best tech solution is one of things I discuss on my national radio show. From buying advice to digital life issues, be sure to listen or download the podcasts. Click here to find your local radio station. If you are looking for topics about everything digital that you can listen to on your phone, tablet or computer, click here for my free podcasts.

As I understand it, most internet service plans require you to pay for specific upload and download speeds. How can I ensure my internet provider is delivering on the speeds I’m paying for?

Sincerely,
Double Downloading

Great (and timely) question, and one I’m sure we’re all thinking a little bit about now that Google Fiber ‘s insanely fast internet has us all a little jealous. Just last week the FCC revealed that most Internet Service Providers (ISPs) usually meet their advertised speed rates . Of course, just because most ISPs are delivering what they’re advertising doesn’t mean yours is. The basic process to test your download speeds is something anyone can do. The first step: we need to verify how much you’re actually paying for.

Find Out the Speed You’re Paying For

The first thing to do is check in with your ISP and see what speed you’re paying for (if you don’t already know it). In some cases, all you need to do is look at your most recent bill and the download speed and upload speed will be listed on it.

However, some ISPs like to hide this information away a little. If your bill lists something like, “Blast Speed,” or “Roadrunner,” then that’s the tier you pay for. The only way to figure out the speed you’re paying for is to head over to your ISPs web site and search through their package options (here are some helpful links for Comcast , Time Warner , AT&T , Verizon , and Century Link ).

If you need a quick primer on what to look for, your connection speed will usually be something like, “Download speeds up to 20 Mbps and uploads up to 4 Mbps.” Mbps means Megabit per second and refers to transfer speed. (Don’t confuse Mbps with MBps, aka Megabytes per second. A MB is equal to 8 Megabits combined). Head over to Buddy Backup blog for a nice and simple breakdown of broadband speed terminology .

You should now have an idea of the internet speed you’re paying for, so let’s do a speed test. Photo by BuddyBackupBlog .

Do a Simple Speed Test

The easiest way to do a speed test is with Speedtest.net (or at least it’s our favorite tool for the job). All you need to do is click on the nearest testing area (usually the big green arrow), and click Begin Test. (For the most accurate test, make sure you’re not downloading or uploading anything—for example, you may want to pause services like Dropbox.)

Let Speedtest run for a few seconds and you’ll see your results. You’ll see three different sets of numbers: Ping, Download Speed, and Upload Speed. The Ping is how long it takes for your data to make a round trip to the server, and we already know what the upload and download speeds mean.

Your download and upload speeds should be within about 1 or 2 Mbps as your advertised rate. If your speed test is a lot slower than what you’re paying for—or, more importantly, you feel like certain types of downloads aren’t fast—then it’s time to check if your ISP is throttling you.