How Fast is My Internet Service?

Oct 3, 2012 cable modem, download speed, east coast, 0 Comments
How Fast is My Internet

Most people find that the amount of time it takes to load web pages and download files varies quite a bit. Sometimes everything slows down late afternoon when kids everywhere get home from school. Early morning the Internet is often quite fast, especially on the East Coast when the rest of the country is still asleep. Your Internet service provider charges more for fast service and you want to make sure you’re getting what you pay for, at least most of the time.

Internet Speed Values

Ask yourself, “How fast is my Internet service?” There are two speed values and several ways of checking them. When you use the Internet, some data travels upstream, towards the servers of your ISP, and some travels downstream to your computer.

For typical surfing, the upstream data is only your computer telling the servers what you want to do. The downstream data is the website files downloading into your computer, so you can see the web page you’re looking for.

Cable modemThe more important value is the download speed, since that’s where most of the traffic is flowing. As a result, many ISPs offer download speeds that are several times higher than their upload speeds. Most customers get good results with this strategy, but it does slow down your uploading of large photographs to Facebook or other social media sites.

Internet connection speeds are measured in Megabits per second or Mbps. A 10 Mbps service for the download speed means that your connection can transfer 10 million bits per second through the Internet connection. Common broadband speeds go as low as 3 or 4 Mbps, and as high as 30 Mbps.

How Fast is My Internet? Let’s Find Out!

To be able to put values on the actual speed your ISP is delivering, you have to find out how much time it takes to upload or download data. There are free services on the Internet that do this for you, like the Digital Landing Internet Speed Test.

You’ll see how much your Internet speed varies over the 10 seconds or so of the test for the upload and download speeds. The final values it gives you are the averages over the test time period. If you repeat the test several times over fifteen minutes and again at different times of day, you’ll get a good idea of the speed of your connection.

These Internet speed tests allow you to compare the values you get with the values your ISP says it delivers. They are based on comparable conditions. The ISP gives you the value the connection can achieve in an ideal situation. The website services give you the actual speed of your connection with small data packets and fast servers. Both represent the highest speeds you can expect. If you’re unhappy with that speed, there are several free ways you can speed up your Internet connection that you might want to try.

The Real World Speeds

If you really want to know how fast your Internet is under real browsing conditions, you have to look for real-world situations. When downloading files from a website, your actual speed is likely much lower. Internet congestion and overloaded website servers slow you down considerably.

You can get numbers for real Internet speeds by checking download times for files of a given size. Websites usually give you the file sizes of files they offer for downloading. If not, your browser will often give you a read-out of the file size and the time remaining. Sometimes it will even give you a download speed.

The important thing to remember is that file sizes are in MB or Megabytes. When you download 10 MB in 10 seconds you are getting a speed of 1 MB per second. A byte is 8 bits, but there are extra bits required for starting, stopping and addressing during the transmission. Overall, you can say that one transmitted MB is very roughly equal to 10 transmitted Megabits.

This means that your 10 MB file downloaded in 10 seconds has been transferred with a speed of 10 Mbps. Even if your ISP says that your connection speed is that high, that would be unusually fast for a real world test. More typical speeds are a fraction of the maximum, depending on how fast the server hosting the website can transmit and how many other visitors are connected.

The Internet speed test gives you a good idea of whether your ISP is delivering the promised speed, but even if you get a super-fast connection, real world surfing will be slower than the maximum. Your overall surfing experience will be faster with a faster connection, but that merely transfers the bottlenecks to other Internet components.

Now that you know what to expect when you run a speed test, you can be informed when you call up your Internet Service Provider to get faster service or cheaper rates.

And if they don’t give you the answers you were hoping for, you can Check out the prices and offers from other Internet Service Providers in your area clicking here and typing in your street address.


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Bert Markgraf has written technical papers and articles for Siemens while working there as a professional engineer. He started his own IT business and wrote and edited a large number of articles for online publisher Suite101 as Senior Managing Editor, Business and Economics. He currently creates Internet content while operating North46 Technologies Inc., an IT company.

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