home internet speed

How to test and improve your Internet speeds.

Our Internet felt slow – and it got positively leaden when several people climbed on at once with multiple devices – iPhones, iPads, laptops. I tested our Internet speed and we were not just impatient – it was slow. Speed is important. It determines how fast you can upload and download files, how well you can stream content and how clear your Skype connection will be.

In case you are not a techie and your eyes are glazing over, things can get better. I upgraded our Fios service from under 50 Mbps to nearly 1,000 Mbps and my bill was reduced by nearly $40/month. Don’t assume that you are getting the best speed or the best price available. It is worth checking periodically.

This is what I learned.

The first step is to conduct at least one free Internet speed test, which is a good indication of how much speed you are getting (with internet speed, like friends, more is better). Your Internet Service Provider (ISP) probably offers a free test. Here are some of the main ISP’s and their tests:

 AT&T High Speed Internet

 Cablevision, Optimum

Comcast Xfinity

Verizon Fios

 Time Warner Cable, Spectrum

If you want an independent test or you can’t find a test provided by your ISP, Speedtest is a free, third party, independent test, powered by Ookla (leader in Global Internet Metrics).

Internet Health Test is another highly rated, free, independent internet speed test.

To see how fast their content is loading, Netflix offers an Internet speed test specific to their site at Fast.com.

Your speed test score will show your download and upload speed. Download speed is the rate at which you download files or stream content from the Internet onto your computer or device. Upload speed is the rate at which you send content onto the web from your computer or device.

When you test your Internet speed on a desktop computer which is hardwired, you will be getting almost all of the speed of the Internet service coming out of your router. If you are using Wi-Fi, your Internet may be slowed down by your Wi-Fi hub.

We measure Internet speed in megabits, gigabits and terabits. In case huge numbers boggle you, here is a guide.

One bit = one unit of binary information “1”, “0”
One kilobit = 1,000 bits
One megabit = 1,000 kilobits
One gigabit = 1,000 megabits
One terabit = 1,000 gigabits

Coming next? One petabit = 1,000 terabits or one million gigabits

Here are speeds which you might reasonably expect depending on the way you connect to the Internet, your Internet provider and the package you have chosen. The translation of 50 Gbps is 50 Gigabits per second:From www.lifewire.com

I am told that 25+ Mbps is plenty of speed for most uses in most households. This will slow down if you have lots of devices sharing the Internet. I wanted more because at peak use, we have a lot of people and devices sharing the Internet.

You are paying for a certain amount of Internet speed. You can increase it by buying a faster package from your ISP. Before you upgrade, it makes sense to reduce anything that is slowing it down and test the speed again.

  1. Turn off devices when you are not using them. Think about phones, tablets, smart TVs, computers, laptops, smart home devices, and video game consoles. This also saves electricity.
  2. Reboot your router periodically by unplugging it for 30+ seconds and plugging it back in. This will unclog the memory.
  3. Make sure that your wireless router is reasonably new. The Wirecutter article on best routers.
  4. If you have Wi-Fi hubs or boosters, make sure that they are up to date. The Wirecutter on Wi-Fi Networking Devices.
  5. If the wires connecting your Wi-Fi hubs and your desktop computers are old, an upgrade will make a huge difference in speed (I speak from experience).
  6. Add security (a password) to your Wi-Fi if you don’t have one. This will keep nearby devices (and neighbors) from sharing your signal and slowing you down.

Techie Trivia – Bit vs. Byte?

A ‘bit’ is the basic unit in the binary system in computers “1”, “0”. A byte is 8 bits. Speed is described in ‘bits per second’. Storage capacity is usually measured in megabytes and gigabytes. No wonder we get confused. Who named these things?