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How to check whether your internet provider is honest with Speedtest

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Are you getting the advertised speeds from your internet service provider (ISP)? An internet speedtest can give you the answer. Not all internet service providers are honest about the speeds they provide to customers, so it’s important to know if you’re receiving the service for which you’re paying. In fact, a report by the FCC concluded that just 11 of 17 tested internet service providers met their advertised download speed. 

Here’s how you can test your internet speeds, why you’d even want to, and ways to determine what’s going wrong. 

Why test internet speed?

In addition to ensuring you’re getting the speeds you’re paying for in your plan, there are other reasons why testing your internet speed can be useful:

Troubleshooting a slow connection

There may be times when your internet seems to be moving slower than what you normally experience. The connection could be slow because of an issue with your provider, your computer or your router. There are reasons why you could be experiencing a slow connection, and running an internet speed test can help you to troubleshoot the issue.

Saving time

If you need to use your internet connection for tasks like uploading large files, which can take a lot of time, you can run internet speed tests throughout the week to see if there’s any pattern to when you see faster or slower speeds. You can use this information to help you decide the best times for the fastest results.

Saving money

If your internet speed is consistently running slower than your provider promised, you may be able to save money by changing your plan to reflect the actual speed you’re experiencing.

Determining what speed you need

If you have several devices using the internet at the same time, or if you enjoy playing video games online, you’ll need much higher speeds than someone who uses their internet connection for checking the weather or social media. If you’re getting a slow response at your selected internet speed, it may be time to upgrade.

How do I perform an internet speedtest?

Running an internet speedtest is as simple as finding a speedtest online. There are many different options available from different providers. Here are some of the more popular speed test options:

  • The Google Fiber speedtest is hosted by Google, which provides high-speed fiber internet to some areas of the U.S. When it comes to data in this speedtest, Google Fiber provides upload speed and download speed.
  • To compare advertised speeds to actual speeds with a speedtest, Cox customers can login using the provider’s online tool to make sure their internet service is living up to expectations.
  • For a three-step speedtest, AT&T offers an online test that measures download speed, upload speed and latency in less than a minute. The AT&T speedtest is powered by DSLReports, an independent third-party speedtest provider.
  • A Fios speedtest offered by Verizon is another option to easily check your internet speed.
  • For a more data-heavy speedtest, Xfinity by Comcast’s test will not only show your download and upload speeds, they’ll also give you a checklist of which activities you can and can’t perform at your current internet speed in addition to tips to improve your speed.

It’s best to perform an internet speed test on both your wired and WiFi connections as close to your router as possible while making sure that other devices aren’t accessing the internet for activities like streaming or online gaming. You should also perform speed tests at different times of day since internet speeds can be significantly slower during busy hours. This will give you an average result over a period of time. 

Test Your Current Internet Speed

How do internet speed tests work?

An internet speed test online performs several operations. In general, the test site will:

  • Identify your location and the server that is closest to you to use for the test
  • Send a ping to the chosen server and measure how long it takes for the ping to reach the server or the upload speed
  • Open connections from the server and measure how fast the server can send data to your device, or the download speed
  • Measure latency, or the amount of time it takes for the server to reply to the user’s request

The amount of information the test will present to you will vary based on the test site.

What does an internet speedtest tell me?

 An internet speedtest measures your download and upload speeds, and will often tell you about your latency or ping as well. Download and upload speeds are measured in megabits per second (Mbps). Download speeds refer to how fast your device receives data from online sources, while upload speed is the rate at which your device can send data to internet servers.

Latency, commonly referred to as ping, is the amount of time it takes for your device to receive data that it requests. This is measured in milliseconds (ms). Latency typically doesn’t make much of a difference for casual internet users who browse the web and send emails. However, for those who frequently participate in online gaming or live video streaming, latency can make a big difference in the ability to interact with other users.

What internet speeds do I need?

Your internet speed requirements will depend on the number of devices and types of internet activity you enjoy. AT&T provides a speed calculator that helps you determine what level of speed you need. Below are a few of the minimum speeds required for different activities. Keep in mind that these are cumulative; you’ll need to add them together to determine the total required speed. 

  • Email: 0.5 Mbps per device
  • Music streaming: 0.5 Mbps per device
  • Web browsing: 1 Mbps per device
  • Video conferencing: 4 Mbps per device
  • Standard Definition (SD) video streaming: 1.5 Mbps per device
  • High definition (HD) video streaming: 4 Mbps per device
  • Online gaming: 4 Mbps per device

Internet abbreviations can be confusing but understanding what speed is considered good based on Mbps is important. If you’re serious about not overpaying for internet you should learn more about what good internet speed is and understand the internet lingo.

What if my internet speeds don’t match my provider’s estimates?

It’s no secret that actual internet speeds are often lower than what is advertised by providers. But if you find that your speedtest results are significantly lower than what you’re paying for, don’t jump on the phone with customer service right away. There are many other factors that can affect internet speeds that may have nothing to do with your ISP.

One of the most common causes of a slow internet speedtest is having too many users or devices connected at the same time. Another is being too far away from your wireless router, or owning a router that is outdated or with the wrong settings. A router antenna pointed in the wrong direction can even have a negative effect on internet speed for the entire household. Also note that advertised speeds only apply to wired connections, not WiFi, which can be slower.

However, it’s possible that consistently slow internet speeds are caused by your internet service provider. The FCC points to bandwidth throttling as a common cause for concern among customers of the most popular ISPs, even naming AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon for violating transparency rules. Throttling occurs when an internet provider slows down speeds for customers in certain geographic areas, after a data cap is reached or when accessing certain websites. Often, these providers create exceptions for internet speedtest sites, making it difficult to troubleshoot whether bandwidth throttling is the source of your slow internet speed. Contact your internet service provider if you suspect that throttling is causing your low speedtest results.

How can I improve my internet speed?

  • Move closer to your wireless router. The farther you are from the router, the slower your internet speed. If you have a large home, try purchasing a WiFi range extender to make sure the signal is strong in every room.
  • Restart your modem and router. To do this, unplug the devices for at least 30 seconds before restarting them. Sometimes this is enough to get your internet speeds back up to your target range, especially if you’ve noticed a decline in speed over time.
  • Rotate your router antenna. Make sure the antenna is facing inward (towards the center of your home) to bring a steadier signal to every room.
  • Upgrade your modem and/or router. Some older models can’t support today’s heavy internet bandwidth. Review the product specifications before purchasing to make sure it can support speeds at least as fast as your current home internet plan. 
  • Change the settings on your router. Switching to a different channel can sometimes result in higher internet speeds. Make sure your wireless network is password-protected so that others can’t gain access to your home internet without permission.

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