Fast internet. It's an advertising point, and most people who want internet will either want something fast or wouldn't mind a faster connection if the cost was right. While speed is important, many people don't understand what speed actually means aside from loading websites faster or not having to deal with skipping and stuttering on Netflix and Hulu.
Both of those issues are a little more complex than simply being fast, and while it's comfortable to ignore the details while demanding better service, ignorance of tech can lead to lost money and bad service that you actually agreed to in the past. Here are a few internet speed details to get a better understanding of how internet should work.
What Exactly Is Speed?
Speed seems simple. It's how fast something goes, right? The end result may be simple, but there are many parts that bring the whole package together.
The most basic part of speed is the capacity of the internet connection. The main series of internet cables and connections that goes from the Internet Service Provider (ISP) to an area has a certain speed that is vastly higher than most home or business computers can handle, and this trunk of cables is split in multiple ways to get to customers.
Your internet connection likely has a specific speed, such as 20, 50, or 100mbps (megabits per second). This speed is how fast data can physically travel from your ISP to your home network. It is not necessarily how fast you'll get that data.
Even if data is an electrical signal or light at some point, it's still a physical object going through a physical cable. There is resistance, and there is a bit of time lost for every junction, switch, and routing point that the data hits. All of this is considered when advertising speeds to customers, but even if the ISP rounds down, the speed could still be bad.
Errors are the true enemy. Just like highway traffic, if there's a collision on the road or other cars that slow down, all of the traffic will be affected in some way. The ISPs can't plan for all of these performance issues and they don't have to; your ISP's only responsibility is to make sure that their equipment connects to your equipment properly and pumps out the right speed.
Sure, if the internet at large fails, you'll probably get a discount or not be charged at all. Your ISP is a customer of bigger internet entities out there, but you need to know who to blame, what to expect, and how to make something happen.
Efficient Technical Support Techniques
Here's a bit of advice to save time and frustration:
- Always clear your gear. Make sure that your home network isn't the problem before complaining to anyone else. This means making sure that your computer isn't slowing down due to a virus or other programs, and that you or someone else on your home network isn't already downloading something at max capacity while you're trying to do something else on the internet.
- Cables aren't perfect. Many people ignore internet cables possibly because they don't stand out much. If you're not a technician, you don't know that cables can go bad easily by people walking on them and breaking wiring, or by burning out.
- Run an independent speed test. Using DSLReports.com or Speedtest.net are good ways to check your speeds to make sure you're getting what you paid for.
Contact an ISP professional to discuss home internet packages and keep an eye on your network performance.