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Tech Talk:

“My internet is better than your internet”

Do you wonder why your video call keeps buffering or that large file download seems to take forever? Understanding internet speed boils down to three key terms: bandwidth, latency, and download/upload speeds.

Bandwidth: Imagine a highway. Bandwidth is the number of lanes – the more lanes, the more data can flow simultaneously. This translates to how much data you can download or upload at a given time, measured in megabits per second (Mbps).

Latency: Think of latency as the speed limit on that highway. It's the time it takes for data to travel between your device and the server you're connected to, measured in milliseconds (ms). Lower latency means faster response times, crucial for real-time applications like gaming and video conferencing.

Download vs. Upload Speed: Download speed is how fast you receive data, like streaming a movie. Upload speed is how fast you send data, like uploading photos to social media. Most internet plans prioritize download speeds, but upload speeds are becoming increasingly important.

Now, let's explore how much bandwidth you. Remember this is per simultaneous device on your network so if you have a family of 6 and they are all streaming their favorite reality show then you’ll need to multiple the streaming bandwidth by 6.

Basic Web Browsing & Email: 3-5 Mbps

Streaming HD Video: 10-25 Mbps

4K Streaming & Online Gaming: 25-50 Mbps

Large File Uploads & Video Calls: 50 Mbps

Keep in mind that what you need today for internet service will grow rapidly in the coming years. From 2010 to 2020 the average global internet speeds increased from just under 10 Mbits per second to just under 90 Mbits per second. It’s anticipated that the average speed will hit 1 Gbit per second within 10 years. Ask your provider if they have Gigabit service now, even if you won’t need it for a few years. Very few thought we would want or need the speeds that we complain about now 10 years ago.

Fiber Optic Advantage: Traditional internet uses coaxial cables, or copper wires which are prone to interference and limited bandwidth. Fiber optic cables transmit data using light pulses, offering significantly higher bandwidth and lower latency. Synchronous fiber provides equal upload and download speeds, perfect for activities like video conferencing and working remotely. Before you enter a long-term relationship with an internet provider make sure you ask them about their technology and if they are providing synchronous fiber to the home or some other service.

Satellite Internet: A Distant Second: Traditional satellite internet suffers from high latency due to the vast distance the signals travel. Newer Low-Earth Orbit satellite internet promises lower latency, but coverage and reliability are still evolving.

Testing Your Internet Speed: Getting an accurate speed test is much more difficult than just installing an app or going to a web page on your computer or phone. The tests that you run in a browser only tell you what speed your device is able to achieve in spite of the programs and internet usage on that device, other devices on your network, your router’s firewall and security settings, and finally your internet speed from your ISP. To accurately find out if your ISP is providing the speeds they advertise you must do some additional work to isolate your testing device. Router Interface: Many routers offer a built-in speed test function. Check your router's manual for instructions. Standalone Speed Test: For a more accurate test, remove all devices from your network except the one you'll be testing on. Connect that device to the router via an ethernet connection not via Wi-Fi. Close any background applications that might consume bandwidth. Run a speed test on a reputable website like Ookla Speedtest By understanding these concepts and testing your internet speed, you can ensure you're getting the most out of your connection. Often buffering or slow downloads are the results of a poor Wi-Fi connection or traffic on your network and not your ISPs problem. Talk to your internet service provider (ISP) about plans that meet your bandwidth and latency needs, especially if you participate in bandwidth-heavy activities. You can also check with your local computer service company to help you determine if you need to reconfigure your router or purchase a new router that can provide faster speed. With a little knowledge and some technical guidance, you can transform your internet experience from frustrating to blazing fast.


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