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Are you unsatisfied with your internet speed? And your internet provider is not helping you either? Don't worry! This is not only your problem. With the range of internet speeds and types of services available nowadays, most people find it hard to choose a good internet connection.

Almost all internet providers use their fastest internet speed as the hottest selling point, although more often than not what you get is not the advertised speed. And, you find yourself paying for what you are promised, but don’t get. So basically, the most prominent factor of an internet service provider’s service i.e. the internet speed is what sells the service in most cases. But, that is exactly the thing which you don’t find yourself happy with very often.

Wondering how to get the most out of your bills and enjoy the best speed for streaming?

The solution is simple!

You need to understand some basic facts about internet speed classifications. Once you do, you will be able to discern what range of speed will work for you the best, and what type of internet connection will be the most appropriate for you. Being well versed in this regard will also help you assess the quality of service you may be receiving from your current ISP. And, armed with the necessary information, you are likely to then make a prudent decision. This is the reason why we have compiled a simple and easy-to-understand guide for you. So, let's get started.

What Determines the Performance of an Internet Connection?

From a user’s viewpoint, there are three factors that are key to understanding internet connections and what may be affecting the quality of the connection.

1- Speed

Let’s say you have a connection that your ISP advertises as 8 Mbps fast. This would imply the connection is able to transfer data at a rate of 8 Megabits per second—Megabit (Mb) is the unit used to measure the volume of digital data during a transfer—so don’t confuse it with Megabyte (MB) which is used to refer to file size or digital storage space. Now, since 8 Megabits make 1 Megabyte, an internet connection that is 8 Mbps fast, will be able to transfer a file that is 1 MB in size in just about 1 second. Hence, the faster the internet speed, the lesser the time it would take to transfer a given amount of data—one main reason why internet speed is mistaken as the only factor which makes or breaks an internet connection.

2- Bandwidth

Internet speed and bandwidth are often confused with each other—and taken as one and the same. However, these terms refer to different aspects of an internet connection. To understand the difference in simple terms, think of a highway where the maximum speed limit is 100km/hr. Now, if the highway is packed with traffic, there is only a slim chance you would be able to drive at the maximum speed allowed. Because of other cars on the road, yours will not be able to utilize the permission to run at 100km/hr.

The bandwidth you are allocated by your ISP is pretty much like a highway. If there is little traffic on the road, you may be able to travel at the peak speed allowed. But if that is not the case, the speed you travel at will continue to vary depending on the volume of traffic sharing the highway with you at any given time. This means, even if you are promised a certain internet speed by your internet service provider, but the allocated bandwidth is not enough for all connected devices, the speed of data transfer will slow down—with each connected device getting its own share of data transfer per second—hence the more the allocated bandwidth, the higher the chances for faster data transfer.

3- Latency

Lastly, we have latency. Latency refers to the span of time that lapses between your device sending out a request for information via the internet and receiving that information. It is also referred to as the ping time—which means the time it takes for the ping from your device to return to you having completed the round trip. Latency is measured in milliseconds. It varies with the physical distance between the destination server and your machine. And, it also depends on the type of connection you are using. So, for example, if you are located in Chicago and the destination server is in Tokyo, ping time would be higher than when your destination server is located in Texas instead. The same logic applies to why latency is generally higher in case of satellite internet connections—because the request from your device first travels to the satellite in the space, then to the operation command center of the ISP back on earth, and again back to the satellite from where its sent your way. Although, these distances are travelled too swiftly for us to imagine, latency compared to other connection types is by default higher because of the distance the signal needs to travel back and forth. On the side note, network congestion also contributes to latency.

Why is Internet Speed Important?

Timing plays a major role in the efficient completion of any task—and in turn, affects productivity levels. Speed, bandwidth, and latency—all three aspects which allow us to evaluate the quality of the internet, essentially revolve around timing. The faster the speed, the more the bandwidth, and the lower the latency, the quicker you will download or upload data via an internet connection.

Let’s make it still more clear by using a simple daily life example. You could boil water on a stove with low gas pressure, but having a higher gas pressure helps you boil the same amount of water quicker, and get the job done in lesser time. Now, hold that thought there, and link it with the speed of an internet connection. If you want to stream a one-hour show, you could do so at a slow speed—content will sure download, but you would have to put up with that endless buffering loop. While at a faster speed you could stream videos many times quicker and have a worthwhile online experience.

So, yes speed is definitely the one main aspect which is of great significance in how your internet experience pans out. But as we have discussed earlier on, it is equally important to know how many devices will you be running on the internet connection, and what type of service you must opt for to make get the best value for your money. Let’s now take a look at what is slow and fast internet andwhat speed do you need?

What Is a Slow Internet Speed?

Many residential and commercial places in remote rural areas are still forced to use an outdated internet type i.e. dial-up internet. The speed delivered by a dial-up internet connection is so slow you can never visit websites that use Flash. Moreover, downloading files also means a long wait because of the slow internet speed. The approximate rate, at which data transfer occurs over a dial-up connection barely surpasses 56 Kbps.

Similarly, a DSL (Digital-Subscriber-Line) connection which on average offers internet speeds between 128 Kbps and 9 Mbps is also considered a slow internet connection now. Delivered via twisted copper phone lines, the connection provides low bandwidth while latency is on the higher end. The reason why it is also not counted as a broadband connection—rather tends to be categorized as slow internet speed.

What Is a Fast Internet Speed?

According to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) benchmark set for any internet connection to be considered broadband, it must facilitate data transfer at 25 Mbps or above. So, 25 Mbps and higher automatically fall into the category of fast internet speeds.

Nowadays, most DSL providers in the U.S. like AT&T, Frontier Communications, Windstream and CenturyLinkhave boosted their existing copper networks with the latest technologies available. DSL internet connections from these providers are therefore able to deliver high-speed internet as fast as 115 Mbps. With HughesNet becoming the first internet provider to deliver 25 Mbps fast satellite internet through the induction of advanced tech, satellite broadband too has become a viable high-speed internet option. So, in remote and rural regions the best bet would be high-speed DSL or satellite broadband.

On the other hand, in urban and suburban regions of the U.S. a number of cable providers are able to furnish fast internet speeds i.e. 25 Mbps to 100 Mbps—making cable broadband a common type of fast internet connection.

Although high-speed DSL and cable broadband both offer good internet speed options if you are looking for super-fast internet speeds, these are still not the best available options.

The World of the Fastest Internet Speeds

With the introduction of fiber optic technology, much has altered in the world of internet providers. With light signals transferring data at ultra-fast speeds via a fiber-optic line, what you get is the fastest internet possible—a connection that is hard to beat.

In the U.S. most countrywide ISPs are providing 100% fiber-optic internet to subscribers in select regions. These internet connections deliver symmetrical speeds i.e. download and upload speeds are the same. Speeds go as high as 1000 Mbps although the likes of Xfinity from Comcast are also giving out a 2000 Mbps fast residential connection where possible. The only downside of a pure fiber-optic connection is the cost involved.

However, the fastest internet speeds are not only available over a pure fiber-optic connection, but you can also get speeds as high as 1000 Mbps from cable providers. Charter Spectrum™, Mediacom Cable , Cox Communications, Wave Broadband, Grande Communications, WOW! and RCN—all these ISPs are have upgraded their existing coaxial cable systems and now use Fiber in the Loop. For the most part data transfer occurs over fiber optic lines, and it is only in the “last mile” that coaxial cable lines are used to deliver internet speeds comparable to a fiber internet connection. Such fiber-powered cable broadband connections are currently the favorite choice of millions in the U.S., because they bring the fastest speeds, easily comparable to fiber optic, but are not nearly as expensive.

With pure fiber optic as well as hybrid fiber-coaxial internet connections, you can enjoy the best speed for streaming with absolutely zero hindrances—and you can browse and download at the best internet speed regardless of the number of connected devices. Bandwidth would not be an issue nor would the performance of your internet connection suffer from latency.

Speed Test

Are you still not sure what internet speed you need to stream your Netflix favorites so that you don’t find yourself staring at the buffering loop on the screen? Don’t worry! It is not easy to determine the best speed for streaming. But you can sure get a good approximation based on a few factors.

First of all, we’d recommend you use an internet speed testing tool to determine if you are getting the same speed as you have been promised by your ISP. If the speed test result is within a reasonable range of the promised speed, it means the internet plan you have subscribed to is not sufficient to cover your needs. And in this case, we would suggest you take a look at the usage of the internet in your household—see how many devices are connected simultaneously and what kind of online activities are conducted in general. Armed with this information, you can discover the internet speed you need for your household. And, once you know what speed range you must look for to fulfill your needs, you can check out internet service providers operating in your area, browse through their plans and packages, and pick the one that perfectly matches your internet connection requirements!

In case, you are a resident of rural America we’d recommend you take a look at the top rural internet providers in the U.S. and then choose the one with the fastest internet on offer, at rates that are affordable for you.

Bottom Line

The world of the internet is all about speed. Now that you know the factors which distinguish slow and fast internet speeds, you can make a wise decision. Always remember one simple rule: the faster, the better.

If you have taken our internet speed test, and discovered the speed you require, you must be quite clear about the internet speed you need. Several internet providers offer the best speed for streaming at the cheap rates—from as low as $24.99 per month for a 25 Mbps internet connection.

Our top picks include Cox Communications, Spectrum, Mediacom Cable, and AT&T. All these offer some of the best packages at amazing prices and excellent customer service! Select and subscribe to services from one of the best internet service providers now!