Several factors contribute to the speed you actually get when you call up a webpage. Even more variables come into play for media-rich activity, such as streaming and gaming. How can you ensure you’re getting the speed you need for your online activity?
An online speed test can determine your cable Internet speed. Knowing your actual speed can alert you to issues on your network or with your carrier. It can also shed light on the type of infrastructure your carrier relies on. Is it the best method for you?
Occasional speed tests can also show you whether you should upgrade your current plan. Changes in number of users and devices connected at once can factor into the speed you might need.
An online speed test (check out our favorite test below) measures data transition between your computer and the Internet. A data file you access from your device will determine download speed.
CONNECT | Plug your device directly into your modem or router
DISCONNECT | Other devices on your network
LOG OUT OF VPN | A virtual private network or other proxy connection can skew test results
BEGIN | Once that is in place, you’re set to test. We like this site for testing: http://www.speedtest.net/
If your speed falls below what your carrier promises, definitely contact them. There might be an issue with the network or with web-enabled devices.
One issue with cable Internet speed: Consistency. Cable Internet carriers deliver service through a network of copper wires. They also service entire neighborhoods. That can translate to as many as 500 customers – on a single connection.
This can lead to network bottlenecks when Internet activity peaks. Before school and work, and after school and work, Internet traffic backs up.
We compiled some common cable Internet speeds and what that means for the activities you do most.
|50 Mbps||100 Mbps||200 Mbps||300 Mbps|
|How long will it take to open up Facebook?||< 1 sec||< 1 sec||< 1 sec||< 1 sec|
|How fast can I upload a photo to Instagram?||< 1 sec||< 1 sec||< 1 sec||< 1 sec|
|Can I stream music on Spotify without skipping?||yes||yes||yes||yes|
|Can I stream a Netflix movie without buffering?||Ultra HD quality||Ultra HD quality||Ultra HD quality||Ultra HD quality|
Mbps stands for Megabits per second. It’s how an Internet carrier measures data transfer speed. It’s common to confuse with megabytes, which measures size of a file. The higher your cable Internet speed, the faster you can download files.
There’s also a distinction between download and upload speeds.
DOWNLOAD | It’s the path from the Internet to your computer. When you access video content, music or online documents, you’re downloading. Typically, it’s the bigger number advertised in Internet speed.
UPLOAD | It’s the path from your computer to the Internet. When you post photos, videos and send documents online, you’re uploading. Typically, it’s the smaller number advertised in Internet speed.
Certain providers offer equal speeds for download and upload.
Even basic web browsing can slow to a crawl if network traffic bottles up your connection. Checking headlines and weather forecasts can become a chore. How can you ever expect to win online auctions or buy tickets to that epic concert before they sell out?
Here are three common Internet activities that work best with a consistent Internet connection.
GAMING | A formidable gamer can’t compete with slow Internet. Latency refers to that speed lag between action and reaction online. And it’s a death knell in online gaming.
STREAMING | Buffering during an intense movie or your favorite album of all time? It’s the worst. A consistent Internet connection will keep the hits – and blockbusters – coming.
VIDEO CONFERENCING | Nothing bogs down a video conversation quicker than a lousy Internet connection. Don’t let spotty Internet interrupt the conversation.
Cable Internet serves metro areas well – but there are limitations.
Cable Internet providers deliver Internet, TV and phone services to metro areas. Yet, with shared connections, network traffic can slow broadband speed. Mid-morning and mid-afternoon/evening draw the heaviest Internet traffic – and potential for connection issues.
Cable Internet providers routinely offer low introductory prices if you switch carriers. That price could balloon in as soon as six months after service begins, though. Be sure to check the agreement details.
Copper wiring once represented the latest in telecommunications technology. Efficient DSL and fiber networks are easier to repair and maintain. Cable connections tend to suffer during stormy weather.
Consumer appetite for fast Internet increases all the time. What’s enough broadband speed today might not cut it in five years. A system of copper can’t keep up.