Going back a few years, I didn’t quite grasp what was all the kerfuffle over internet speeds. What did “fast” matter anyway when you were mostly using it to surf the web? Well things couldn’t be more different now, and like me, you’ll probably find that WiFi speed is very important in getting done the things you need to do whilst using the Internet. Including watching streamed media or having video meetings, which are now frequent activities.
What is Meant by Internet Speed Anyhow?
Internet speed is a measure of your connectivity, specifically how quickly you are able to upload and download whatever it is you are accessing using the Internet. You are paying for a certain “bandwidth” of connectivity, which will determine the range in speeds you can expect. So for example if you have 50 Mbps of speed, it should allow you to download (record) a typical 2 GB movie in a little more than five minutes. If instead you have opted for 1 Gbps, you could download that same film in 16 seconds.
And importantly, your bandwidth is shared if there are more people than yourself in your household. Whatever speed is promised in your agreed package is the total available across all devices connected to the Internet via WiFi. This includes laptops, tablets, smartphones connected to WiFi, plus other devices using Bluetooth like printers. In addition, if your WiFi is not secured with a password, neighbors could be taking some of your bandwidth by using your Internet connection. Always password protect your WiFi access.
Moreover, as is often the case (and has been several times for me), your broadband provider may not be providing a bandwidth that is within the range you’ve agreed by contract to pay for. Here you’ll find instructions how to check the true speed you’re getting via an objective speed checker.
Run a Speed Check
Actual Internet speeds can vary throughout the day because, unless you’re paying for direct Internet access (as might a business from a certain size) the internet usage by nearby households can also affect your speed. As long as your provider is providing to you a range that they’ve promised and charged for, you shouldn’t be concerned with these fluctuations. However you may find that in practice you’re getting significantly less than promised. First check the speeds for you’ve been paying. You may find this information on your monthly statement; otherwise check under your account information online or on your written contract if you opted for paper account records.
Now you will want to go to an objective speed checker that works in your area. This service is free. Those tied to a specific provider may make you input your contact details before revealing the results (so that they can hard sell you), but you can easily find a service where this won’t be necessary. You can Google “free broadband speed checker” or similar search terms to find options. Below are some suggestions. To get the most accurate read on the speeds you are actually experiencing, you should try a few times on different days and times.
In the US
- Fast.com – This one immediately shows you your speed with no faff of inputting your data. See example of output below.
- Speedtest.net One of the oldest on the market
In the UK
- Fast.com – As above, it immediately shows you your speed with no faff of inputting your data.
- Ofcom is the official regulator of the communications industry in the UK. Whilst they no longer offer their own speed checker, their site recommends approved checkers: “You can run a speed test using an Ofcom accredited price comparison site such as Broadband.co.uk, broadbandchoices.co.uk and Simplifydigital.”
- However, on Ofcom’s site, you are able to check the different bands of speed available. The highest speeds are not available in all areas, with gaps especially in rural areas. You can check here and the output will look something like the below.
Help, I’m Not Getting What I’m Paying For
Note down the upload and download speeds from the read out and the date and time you ran the tests. Make sure you have to hand your broadband service account information and get in touch with them to say you’re not getting what you’ve been paying for. Be clear on what you want to achieve – for them to boost your speed or reduce your bill. You can even negotiate for a boost plus a credit for the time they’ve been under-delivering (or “a gesture of goodwill” as they may prefer to call it to avoid culpability).
Most service-oriented providers will believe you at your word, but if you suspect you may be dealing with one of bad faith, be sure to take a screen shot of the speed read-outs you’ve made. If you need a refresher on the easy ways to take a screenshot, you can read that on our post here. It may seem like a lot of faff to get the speeds you’ve paid for, but you’ll save so much time going forward not waiting for pages to load that time spent on the phone or via chat with your provider will be time well invested.
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