Reliable Internet Service

« Back to Home

Understanding What Slow Speed Actually Means

Posted on

Slow Internet is an issue that plagues many computer users, but may not be easily understood by all. Some people may be satisfied to blame the issue on the Internet Service Provider (ISP) or the computer itself, but unless you take the time to understand the issue, the problem can carry over to another ISP with no real resolution. To cut down on confusion and to take back some control when asking for technical support from any ISP, take the time to understand what speed means and what to do about certain problems.

What Is Internet Speed?

It's easy to point to a big number for an Internet service package, but you need to know what those numbers mean in relation to the way you use the Internet.

When you purchase an Internet plan, you're getting a certain speed and capacity that should be available at virtually all times. For example, a 30mbps download, 10mbps upload connection means that you have a connection from the Internet to you the Internet at 30 megabits per second, and a connection from your computer to the Internet at 10 megabits per second. These are not the speeds you actually see for downloading and uploading.

When you actually download a file, what you see is the megabytes per second instead of megabits. Put simply, bits are used for speed while bytes are used for file sizes. There are 8 bits in a byte, so your maximum download or upload is 1/8th of the mbps measurement that the ISP gives you. This means that your 30 megabits per second download connection should be performing around 3.75 megabytes per second. 1/8th of 30 is 3.75.

Although the math can  be confusing, you need to know your maximum possible download speed. From there, an ISP's contract may promise a certain percentage for best effort. Although there is no industry standard for the best effort, some ISPs promise a best effort of no less than 70%. For you, that means you may not be seeing any discounts or refunds unless the speed dips below 70%.

Best Effort And Intermittent Connections

Slow Internet doesn't just mean being lower than what your ISP calls a best effort. If it's not fast enough to load your videos, download your files or do anything you normally do on the Internet, it's time to research the issue and ask for help.

If the Internet seems slower than usual, make sure you're not downloading multiple things at one time. It could be that you forgot about a download in the background, or that one of your programs is performing a large update without you knowing. It could even be someone else in your household (or someone stealing your wireless Internet) adding additional burden to your connection.

If the problem isn't downloading or uploading, make sure your modem is working okay. Many modern ISPs give a combination modem and router, which both brings in the Internet signal (the modem's job) and distributes the Internet to different computers (the router's job) in one device.

Contact your ISP for instructions on how to turn off the router, which can include techniques such as unplugging the router for a certain number of seconds or receiving a replacement.

If you're in the market for better, high speed Internet service or want to know your options, get in contact with an ISP representative, such as one from Virginia Broadband, LLC.