How To Figure Out How Fast Your Internet Connection Is
Anyone with a broadband Internet connection has wondered at some point if they’re getting what they’re paying for. The quickest way to find out is to run a speed test to measure the following:
- Upstream speed: This is the speed from your computer to the Internet.
- Downstream speed: This is the speed from the Internet to your computer.
By measuring the downstream and upstream speed, you can accurately gauge your overall connection speed.
For this purpose, I recommend speedtest.net as it not only measures the above figures, but it measures the ping time between your computer and the test server. That can aid you in determining how fast your connection is (or isn’t) as lower times generally mean faster connections.
Let’s apply a real world example to this. Let’s say that you are paying for a connection to the Internet that is advertised at a maximum of 5 Megabits per second downstream, and 800 kilobits per second upstream. You run this test and you find out that you get 4.3 Megabits per second downstream and 670 kilobits per second upstream with a ping time of 40 milliseconds. That’s pretty good as in the real world, you will never get the full speed that is advertised because of a number of factors:
- Cable users share their Internet connection with everyone else on their cable. This single cable may snake around the entire area. If the cable is over utilized then everyone on that cable will be affected with slow speeds.
- ADSL users can have a similar problem. Although they enjoy a dedicated connection to the local central office, the connection from the central office to the rest of the Internet is shared amongst all users of that central office. The central office connection is much greater then any user’s individual speed but if there are many hundreds of ADSL users all using the connection at the same time then there will be an overall decrease in the speed of user’s connection. Another factor is distance from the central office to your home or workplace. The further away you are from the central office, the slower your speed.
- Another source of problems is your ISP. They may have too many customers and not enough bandwidth, which is a common issue with many consumer ISPs. This is where the ping time comes in handy. The lower the ping time, the better your connection.
So lets say that you’re getting way less than what you’re paying for. You can try calling your ISP to see if they can do anything about it. But in general your ISP will use their “escape clause” to get out of dealing with it. By “escape clause” I mean that ISPs generally don’t guarantee a given speed. They instead say “up to” a given speed. This allows them to get away with giving their customers sub-optimal performance for extended periods of time. If you fall into this category, your only hope may be to switch providers.
As a rule, I encourage people to test their connection and if they’re not getting what they pay for they should hold their ISP to account. If they don’t do anything about it, vote with your dollars and go elsewhere.
Tip: You should try this test at different times of the day as you might get different results at different times of the day.