Clocking Cable Internet Speed

How does your actual speed stack up against what you pay for?

Take a cable Internet speed test

How can I test my cable Internet speed?

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:

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.

Common cable speeds

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

What does Mbps indicate?

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.

What’s possible with reliable Internet speed?

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.

4 factors to consider with cable Internet

Cable Internet serves metro areas well – but there are limitations.