When it comes to speed, internet users are divided into 3 major camps: people who think they need the fastest internet, people who don’t think they need much internet speed, and people who have no idea what they need.
People who know how to measure internet speeds and performance will have multiple tools available and experience to rely on, but what if you’re just trying to make the right purchase without any formal training?
To get the right internet speed for your online activities, here are a few tips and techniques that can help you right-size any plan from any service provider.
Just Checking The Web Means More Than You Think
For internet users who don’t want to get more internet service than they need, downplaying their use is often the first reaction.
It makes sense to most people. If all you do when you use the internet is glance at the internet and check a few websites, you clearly don’t need the fastest connection in the world, right?
Absolutely true, but there are a lot of options between the fastest connections and the worst connections available. If you go too low, you may not be able to load anything.
One thing to understand about basic internet is that the standard internet experience is always changing. Although there was a push for an all-text or mostly text internet alternative for all users, the free and open nature of the world wide web–not just the web in one country or region–does not and will not follow those rules.
Even if informative, service-based websites provide a text-only service that should load quickly, many other websites will use higher definition images, videos, and even audio to deliver an amazing design experience to fit what they think the average internet user will have for a connection.
There are a few measures to slow down internet use to a sensible level. Google’s Chrome browser and Chromium-based browsers are tackling videos that automatically play on websites (autoplay ads) to save users from using too much data, slowing down their connection, slowing down their devices, and being annoyed in general.
Other browsers are able to deliver the same experience, but there are other areas of the internet that create similar problems. If a website’s design is based on using the best possible image quality, or if the website uses the highest resolution because of an artistic or documentary focus, you may end up using more than a basic connection’s capable speed whether you intend to or not.
Gauging Your Actual Internet Need
To figure out how much internet you need for any activity, it’s best to ask the websites and services that you use.
Most major sites and services will have some kind of guide about their internet use, or will have technical staff members available to answer your question. For the most part, these services will be divided into bulk data downloads, videos, music, and standard web browsing.
If you only browse the web and check your email, don’t ask every single website that you plan on visiting. Go to the websites that load the slowest and look for a guide on browsing requirements.
CNN, for example, has a set of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) that include the suggested internet speed for using their video player. Since the video player is likely the biggest source of internet use on CNN.com, you should at least have enough speed to handle that site.
Continuing with the CNN example, you’ll see that their video player requires “approximately 750Kbps of bandwidth” to watch the videos. Kbps is kilobits per second. There are 1000 kilobits in 1 megabit.
You’d be hard-pressed to find a modern internet package with less than 10mbps, which is more than fast enough for news and other multimedia sites. It is, however, possible to demand a lower internet package for the sake of saving money.
Most modern Internet Service Providers (ISPs) such as Optimum Internet have much higher speeds at the same or lower prices than basic internet in the past decades. Although some services push customers towards higher tiers to ensure their network investments are recouped, it’s not difficult to find a plan that is cost-efficient and fast enough for average users.
The new average for internet users involves streaming videos on platforms such as Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, or Crunchyroll. Netflix, for example, recommends a few different speeds depending on the video quality:
“0.5 Megabits per second – Required broadband connection speed
1.5 Megabits per second – Recommended broadband connection speed
3.0 Megabits per second – Recommended for SD quality
5.0 Megabits per second – Recommended for HD quality
25 Megabits per second – Recommended for Ultra HD quality”
Your minimum speed also assumes that just one or a few activities are happening on your home network. If someone else in the household is watching different videos, playing online games, or downloading big files, you may need to add a few more mbps or megabits per second to give everyone room to use the network.
Contact an internet service professional to discuss your online activities and look through a few of your favorite sites and services for their requirements and recommendations.