Starting with dial-up in the 1980s, I’ve had it all when it comes to Internet connection from home. I’ve had DSL, cable and fiber connections, and I can tell you, speed is a good thing, but until you have substantial speed, it is impossible to quantify things, to absorb the import of it all.
What is your Internet speed and what do you pay for it? Sure, price does matter. Go ahead and do the test. Go to www.speedtest.net. Choose the nearest server, which will likely show up automatically, and begin the test. Do it a few times, if you wish, and feel free to choose different servers.
Look at your Ping value. This is the time it takes your signal to make a round trip to the server and back to you. Under 10ms (milliseconds) is good.
Look at your download speed. This, as your upload speed, is determined by the Internet package for which you are paying your Internet Service Provider.
For the record, mine is now very fast, relatively speaking, which is why I feel compelled to write about it. While I am thrilled at the performance and price that is mine with Verizon FiOS, the US lags far behind, disgustingly behind other parts of the world in Internet performance and price. Take a look at this page with world speeds and prices.
In most cases, consumers are relegated to only one, maybe two choices. Some users can choose between DSL (Digital Subscriber Line) from a local phone company or possibly DSL Extreme, or a cable TV provider using a cable modem. Some who live in remote rural areas have none of this available and can get only satellite-based service, which is both expensive and slow. One other possibility is Wi-Max, using a little box or individual computer plug-in to connect to a wireless network from mobile providers, such as Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, and also ClearWire.
Sprint and Clearwire, while offering mobility and portability, are often more expensive, and can be from slow to fast depending upon what’s available in the area. This type of service also routinely caps the amount of data per month for the base price. More on this later.
Why does any of this matter? Ah, that is the question! To many users, it really does not matter. If you do not download much, whether documents, applications, music or video, you might not know or care.
On the other hand, if you or others in the family are downloading fiends, uploading mavens and if you rely on Internet speed for business, it does matter.
In all my experience with DSL and cable services, and now with 100% fiber optics from Verizon FiOS, the service from Verizon, in all regards, has been far better than anything I’ve ever had. The installation was of highest quality, with personnel that were clearly geeks. The fiber service carrying both TV and Internet seems of unlimited capability. It never chokes. It so rarely is down that I hardly think of it. It is, however, my recommendation, to occasionally reset all the equipment by unplugging it and then plugging it back in, first the modem, and then, after all the appropriate lights are lit, the router, if the two are separate as are mine.
I came from AT&T DSL, with speeds that could not exceed 6Mbps down and 768Kbps up. I could have had greater speed there, had I wanted to go with more expensive service from our cable provider.
Now, in this location, there is not much difference in price between Comcast Cable and FiOS, so I went with FiOS. I can still use my precious High Def TiVo set top boxes with FiOS-supplied cable cards, and for my two remaining analog TVs, I need Verizon-supplied intermediary digital to analog cable boxes that supply only lower-band TV stations numbered up to 100.
We started with FiOS speed of 15Mbps down and 5Mbps up, and I was thrilled, absolutely delighted. Then Verizon informed us in two different increments that, for no additional money, we could up our speed to as much as 25Mbps down AND 25Mbps up. What’s not to like! By actual measurement, as you can see above, it is faster than that.
Again, what’s the big deal? With that speed I can simultaneously:
• Download a movie in as little as two minutes
• Stream High Def movies from Netflix in very acceptable form on our awesome 50-inch plasma TV
• Stream videos to anyone, anywhere from your high speed connection in real time (so long as their download speed is good enough to get a high quality picture)
• Upload to the cloud (to a storage space on my Apple iDisk) a 3GB file in about one minute
• Transfer data from my local, in-house Pogoplug as fast as if the data was downloaded from an online source.
• Do Mac OS and Windows updates no matter the size nearly instantly
• Do any online operation and not see any impact upon performance
The greatest single impediment to successful streaming from your home or office Internet connection to a remote person or handheld device on Wi-Fi or on mobile carrier’s connection is YOUR upload speed. Even if you have what works great for downloads, it is your upload speed that determines the ability to stream from you to others, even to your iPhone or other portable devices. With at least 5Mbps upload speed, you should be good to go, though possibly not for multiple streams.
Most consumers are simply not aware that there is a difference between their download and upload speeds. And if they do have such awareness, there is a lack of understanding as to what these differences can mean to the user. Generally, the upload speed would be seen as slow with, say, a “normal” speed of 768kbps when the user would try to do a file transfer to another or to populate a cloud-based file reservoir. Most consumers’ upload speed is as slow as 128kbps!
Here is the grossest offender of all, for anyone paying an online backup service, such as Dolly Drive, Mozy or Carbonite. If you have one of these services, and if you have a couple of hundred gigabytes of data consisting of documents, photos, family videos and music, not unusual today, the time it will take to complete your first backup can be expressed in months, not days or weeks. This is even with a computer that is always on. With my old speed of 1Mbps upload, my first backup was not completed even after five months! I also try to shut down at night and when I traveling away from Gadget Central. What this means is that without that first complete backup, you are vulnerable if a failure occurs. If your upload speed is faster, then the time to not only complete that first backup but to maintain it with daily changes is going to up to 50 (or more) times faster!
Until I was able to experience speed without delay or frustration, I never knew how good it could be. I had a glimpse of this a couple of years ago when visiting a daughter at her college. I asked to use her computer, wanting to test Internet speed. I knew that some universities had insanely high speeds, so I had to check. Her speed was, as I recall, about 135Mbps down and a similar number up. Was I dreaming? No, but I did lament not having the Internet at all when I was going to school!
What does this information tell us? If you don’t care, don’t bother. However, why not get the most speed for your money from whichever is your provider. If all you do is email, and if you never have been conscious of speed being good or bad, just be sure you are getting the best deal. If you have not checked your plan within six months, please do so. DO NOT count on your provider to come to you to let you know they offer better service for the same or less money You have to ask if you are getting the best deal.
To that end, if DSL is your route, do see if DSL Extreme is available in your market and compare prices with, for example, AT&T and Verizon. If both cable and DSL (including AT&T U-verse) are available, don’t be afraid to shop them and let one know you would go with them were the deal sweeter, less than the competition or at least the same price. Since most of these prices are regulated in some way, the salesperson may tell you no adjustment can be offered, but you can ask for a courtesy credit to your account to make up the difference for a time.
If higher speed is something that is attractive to you, then shop for your best deal, of course, and your best technology. The best, by far, is Verizon FiOS. FiOS is optical fiber to the home or place of business. Those tiny little glass fibers can carry more data than we can likely ever use. DSL, even AT&T U-verse, carries signal over a twisted pair of copper wire, your telephone wires. It just cannot compete. There is a limit to the bandwidth it can carry effectively. Optical fiber as in FiOS is super strong and does not suffer here from what any neighbor is doing. Sometimes DSL or derivatives can become slower or faster, approaching its paid-for limit at different times of the day. If you have, for example, 6Mbps DSL service and measure it, the most you will see will be about 5Mbps. FiOS service calling for 15Mbps downstream WILL BE that 15Mbps and likely more!
Next up, cable-provided Internet service. Generally, it is more expensive than alternatives. Generally, anecdotally, it has been my experience and reported by others that speeds can vary during the day and night and are generally not quite as advertised. Most of all it can be quite expensive as compared with DSL or FiOS. However, many users simply do not have the choice, and cable operators know this and take advantage of it. They are, in a very real sense to these consumers, a monopoly.
FiOS is not available as widely as other providers’ product. I’ve read that Verizon is not spending the big bucks to build out new areas with their service. This is understandable. It is quite expensive. As I, maybe you have read that our President is asking to provide or to make available high speed Internet service ubiquitously to all areas of the country. If this is so, then it makes sense that the gov’ment will provide incentives for companies, including Verizon, to do just that. So, why make the investment now, when it will be subsidized later on! However, if FiOS is available to you, I wholeheartedly endorse the decision to go with this service for your Internet, if not for TV, as well. I will NEVER switch to another Internet provider unless I am compelled to do so by forces greater than myself.
Finally, let me throw out a word about phone service. For those who still want a landline, as I do, and not just a mobile phone, the best service, performance and price, is NOT your phone company. It is NOT your cable company and it is NOT your Internet provider. The best mix of service, performance and price is a relative newcomer, a service that uses your Internet connection to send and receive digital voice. This service, the best one, best value that I use, is PhonePower, with virtually unlimited calling to the US and Canada for as little as under $10 per month! Learn more at www.PhonePower.com. Please read my review.