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  • Ari Footlik

The Need for Internet Speed?

When your Internet surfing feels frustratingly slow, you contact your Internet Service Provider (ISP) for help. Your ISP will surely attempt to do whatever they can, but ultimately they'll probably convince you to increase you bandwidth (speed) subscription, which may improve perceived performance.

Emphasis on "may," especially if you're already at a higher subscription-level.

The thing is, you probably didn't/don't need faster Internet bandwidth. Chances are that low Internet bandwidth isn't what's causing your frustrating Internet experience.

Why don't I need super-fast Internet?

Web browsing doesn't actually consume much Webpages generally contain many relatively small files, each of which fully transfers within moments. The individual files are so small that they finish transferring before they even have a chance to ramp up to full speed.

If you're driving and the speed limit is 1000 megabits per second (mbps) but you're only going 20 megabits (mb) distance down the road, you'll never have time to even accelerate up to 1000 mbps.

Movie-streaming just needs to flow "Streaming" generally means that what is seen as continuous video actually arrives in lots of small chunks. At lower bandwidths a stream may take a few moments longer to begin playing, but once the movie starts the chunks generally arrive faster than they're being watched. You may see the occasional "buffering" warning, but unless your Internet service has been completely interrupted the bufferring is likely not due to insufficient Internet bandwidth.

Once the streaming data makes it onto the Information Super-Highway, all it needs is for the traffic to keep moving consistently and at a reasonable pace.

Video-conferencing is a 2-way street When we think about and hear commercials about Internet speeds like, "gigabit Internet," we're usually referring to download speed - from the Internet to our location. But for video-conferencing, the other number - the upload speed - now comes into play.

Up to now we've been dealing with the inbound traffic - data coming from the Internet. Video-conferencing sends video and audio to the Internet, in addition to the inbound feed (which is like a streaming movie).

As upload speed is generally sold in increments related to download speed, you may need a higher-bandwidth subscription to gain the improved upload performance, but not because of slow Internet browsing.

Video-conferencing introduces outbound traffic, which has a separate speed limit that must be considered with respect to the number of potential simultaneous drivers (video-conferencing users). And since video-conferencing is essentially reverse video-streaming, video-conferencing is similarly reliant on flowing consistently for both downloading and uploading.

High bandwidth helps with large files High bandwidth can make a noticable difference when working with large files, like when downloading an entire movie to watch offline (as opposed to streaming).

Now there's enough distance to travel that you'll have time to accelerate up to and stay at 1000 mbps, able to take full advantage of the available bandwidth. But how often are you transferring large files, unless you're either going on an off-grid vacation or work in the graphics or video industries?

Poor Internet performance is probably still a bandwidth issue, though!

Casual Internet use generally doesn't demand Internet speeds as fast as what's available from your local ISP. Faster speed from your ISP may mask a problem for a while or offer a placebo effect, but your experience will continue to fall short of expectations.

The underlying issue is more likely a deficiency of bandwidth within your environment, which is often experienced as a lack of consistency or reliability. What you perceive as slow Internet may be due to your device struggling to maintain a good Wi-Fi connection, not due to a lack of speed to and from your environment.

The Information super-highway speed limit is probably sufficient, once you get onto the highway. Your frustrations are more likely due to unreliable arterial roads.

There are other factors to take into consideration, like the number of users and their style of Internet use.

But if you've already reached road-rage-level with your ISP, contact TechStreamlined to help identify and deploy a Wi-Fi system that will suit the traffic needs of your connected environment.

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