Internet Speeds Explained

How is Internet Speed measured?

Internet speeds are usually measured in bits per second, or more specifically, Million bits per second. This is generally shortened Mb/sec., Mbps, Mbs and occasionally just M. (It’s important to note the lower case “b” for bits. An upper case “B” stands for byte, which is 8 bits.)


How fast is my Internet connection?

There are generally two stated speeds for an internet connection. The download (incoming) speed, and upload (outgoing) speed. Of course, both of these speeds vary by the type and level of internet service purchased.

Your Internet Service Provider (ISP) can tell you what your rated internet speeds are (incoming and outgoing). You can also run online programs from websites like to test your internet speeds. If you search internet speed test you will find many similar options. This will give you a ballpark idea of your internet speeds. But the reported internet speed numbers are also affected by your firewall, your network switch, network data, and any other data traffic on your internet connection while running the test.

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What is a common internet speed?

They vary so much, it’s hard to say anything is common –  but we’ll try. First, a quick look back.

(Note – These are generalizations with some geographical areas having very different internet speed options than other areas.)

  • Dial up connection – This speed was determined by the modem. Although they started even slower, the most recent modems were 56k. A 56k modem (k meaning 1000, unlike M which is million) meant that the theoretical speed was 56 thousand bits per second. Real world speeds were half of that, or less.
  • 10 to 15 years ago – Early DSL connections were often 256k or 512k (.25 or .5 Mbps). Early cable connections were sometimes a bit faster at .5 or 1 Mbps.
  • 5 years ago – DSL and Cable speeds were often 1, 2, 4 Mbps, with a few being faster than that.
  • 2010 – The FCC defined basic broadband as 4Mbps download and 1Mbps upload. The industry still used broadband as a term to refer to any speed internet as long as it remained online (not a dial up modem).
  • Today – DSL and Cable still dominate the Internet bandwidth options, but the available speeds have increased, sometimes substantially. While some areas are still rather limited in internet speed options, many areas have download internet speed options in the 10, 20, and 40 Mbps range. Upload speeds are often 10 to 20 percent of download speeds.

Types of Internet Service

Home and business grade internet usually function similarly. However, business grade internet usually offers higher speeds and a static, or permanent, internet address (IP). Static IP addresses are a requirement for VPN (virtual private networking). They are also needed for other internet-based services that require a connection to your network, like DIS Electronic Customer Support and DIS’s new automated Cloud Backup service.

  • Home Broadband – Home broadband download connections typically range from 4 Mbps to 20 Mbps. Some areas experience internet download speed options as fast as 40 Mbps.
  • Business Grade – Cable often offers business grade options from 16Mbps up to 100Mbps. DSL business grade is often offered from 16 to 40 Mbps.
  • Fiber Internet – Usually a business grade connection, local phone companies are making fiber connections much more available. Fiber is generally the fastest connection type available with speeds ranging from a couple dozen Mbps to a couple hundred Mbps.
  • T1 Internet – T1 lines used to be at the high end of internet speed option. If you had a T1 you were in the fast lane. However T1 lines, by design specification, are only 1.54 Mbps. They are forever limited to that speed. T1s have a small advantage in that they can download and upload data at the full rated speed. But in most areas, T1s are one of the slowest internet connections available. When you factor in that T1 connections are usually much more expensive than faster Cable or DSL internet connections, T1s are rarely the best option.
    – Some areas offer wireless internet. This is often quite slow, and sometime prone to disruptions from other radio wave interference. Satellite internet is available almost everywhere, but is usually only considered as a last resort when no land-based options are available.

Over time as we have continued to add electrical devices to our businesses, we increase the capacity of the incoming electrical circuits to handle the larger need. Internet bandwidth is proving to be exactly the same. As we add more functions performed over the internet, have larger amounts of data to move, and have an increased reliance on the internet simply to accomplish our daily work, we need to increase our internet bandwidth capability to fulfill that need.

If you haven’t re-evaluated your internet options recently, it might be a very worthwhile effort. You may find there are new options that offer greatly increased internet speeds and in some cases with similar or even lower costs. It’s free to ask!

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