The Internet is everywhere in the modern world. From calling our family and friends to using maps on our phones to purchasing a coffee at a café, we use the internet throughout the day. Yet, the most important place we use the internet is at home. Whether you work from home, have children who study at home, or you just want to watch a movie, you need to have a quality internet connection and good internet speeds. If you’ve ever wondered why you have fast or slow internet, this article will give you all the information you need.
What Is Internet Speed?
Most internet users don’t know how the technology works under the hood, but they do notice when their internet isn’t working as fast as they expect it to. Internet speed stands out when a page takes too long to load, a video continually buffers, or conversely when apps, websites, or media loads quickly.
Internet speed is a measurement that refers to how fast data is transferred from one location to another. For your laptop or mobile phone, the internet speed determines how quickly you can get a response from a server after making a request. For example, if you open a link to a YouTube video that your friend sent you, if the link opens and begins to play the video immediately, you have a fast internet connection.
Internet speeds are measured in megabits per second or Mbps. Several factors determine how fast your internet speeds are, but first, it’s important to distinguish two types of speeds that are often measured.
Download vs. Upload
Download speed refers to how quickly information is received by your device. For example, if you want to download a new application on your device, the time it takes to download the app can be measured as the download speed. Other actions that refer to download speeds include scrolling social media pages, reading a blog, or listening to music online.
Upload speed is the opposite—it’s the time it takes to upload something to the internet. The activities that refer to upload speeds are posting to social media, participating in a Zoom or other type of web conference, or sending an email.
These two speeds—download and upload— differ greatly, yet they’re both subject to the same determining factors explored below.
Types of Internet
While most people are aware of the type of internet they have on their mobile devices—4G LTE or 5G—they may not know the internet they have set up at home if they weren’t the ones who purchased the service. The following three are the most common types of internet plans for homes and offices.
Fiber internet is the newest type of internet available for home and office networks. It uses fiber-optic cables that allow for lightning-fast data transmission which gives Fiber internet the current fastest available speeds of all types of internet. Fiber internet can provide speeds of up to 6,000 Mbps, however, the standard is around 1,000 Mbps.
Cable internet is the most widespread of all internet types. It can provide speeds up to 1,000 Mbps, however, your actual internet speed may not reach that high. Many users who have cable internet purchase the service in a bundle with a TV and home phone plan.
Digital subscriber line, or DSL, is much older than both cable and fiber internet. It’s also the slowest of the three, yet it remains available over a large network. DSL internet speeds typically reach only 100 Mbps which is not enough for modern internet activities like streaming, web calls, and more.
Factors Determining Internet Speed
Type of Internet
As described above, there are three main types of internet available to homeowners, renters, and businesses. You may also wonder about internet types such as 5G home internet or 4G LTE home internet. While these types of internet do exist, they are not widespread.
The type of internet you choose will have the greatest impact on your internet speed. If fiber is available in your area, it’s the best option you have to ensure you have consistent high speeds.
When you sign up for an internet plan, your home WIFI network gets internet through connected servers. Depending on where those servers are located geographically can affect how fast your internet is. If you live in the middle of nowhere and your network servers are far away, your connection may have a slight delay compared to customers who live closer to the servers. What’s more, if those servers receive a lot of traffic from other customers, your internet speeds may be further dampened.
Internet throttling is when your internet is intentionally capped or slowed. This can only happen by your internet service provider, or ISP, as they control your connection to your internet. For example, with Verizon Internet, speed Verizon throttling is common.
An ISP may throttle your internet when they believe that your internet activity is consuming a lot of their network traffic—in other words, when you use a lot of bandwidth. Bandwidth is how much data is transferred over an internet connection in a set amount of time.
Your ISP may also throttle your internet when there is a peak in activity across their network. For example, if after work you want to watch a movie, there’s a high chance many people in your area are doing the same thing. Your ISP may throttle your and your neighbor’s internet to allow more people to use the internet. The result is everyone has lowered internet connection speeds.
Many ISPs offer tiers of services or packages that come with different speeds. For example, with Verizon’s home internet, customers have a choice of three key internet plans. These plans offer speeds up to 1 gigabit, 500 Mbps, and 300 Mbps. It’s important to know when looking for internet plans that these proclaimed speeds are not the speeds you will always experience. With Verizon’s 1 gig plan, average speeds range from 750 to 940 Mbps for downloading.
The Bottom Line
Several factors determine how fast your internet speed is. The defining factor, however, is the type of internet you have as each type of internet has a different capacity to transfer data.