Monday, August 03, 2009

What Internet Speed Do I really Need?

Once the Internet was used for writing short notes to friends or an occasional search for an address or phone number. Some of the more daring among us may have booked some travel plans or even purchased a book or two. Now more and more of us are using the Internet for banking, stock trading, downloading music, sharing photos and videos with our family and friends and even watching network TV programs. An increasing number of us use our home computers to tie into our network at the office. In short, just like the highway systems have been overloaded with automobiles, Internet “traffic” is growing almost exponentially.

It was not long ago that most of us used a standard telephone line to connect out home computer to the Internet. When our main use was an occasional email or two, this was more than sufficient. Over time though, higher speed connections have been the rule. In our neck of the woods there are essentially two options of high speed Internet; DSL (Digital Subscriber Line) service provided by Cincinnati Bell or another phone company and a cable based service provided by Time Warner or other cable provider.

When you get right down to it, either will provide a level of service adequate for most home Internet users. There are some differences in how each works.

The cable based system uses the Cable TV network to connect you to the Internet. It is sort of like a water system. There are large pipes that connect to the source of the water and as the system spreads out the pipes get smaller and smaller with all water users sharing in the supply. If everyone on the system decides to take a shower and water the lawn the system slows to a trickle. Since this almost never happens, it is not a problem.

The DSL configuration is different. Just like your phone, Cincinnati Bell provides a dedicated wire from your house to the phone company office. This line is only used by you. So if everyone in the neighborhood is on the phone or computer, your speed does not change.

In most cases the speed provided by the cable modem is slightly faster than the DSL service. If you want to check your speed there are several Internet sites you can use. One of the easiest is CNET. You type in your zip code and type of service and it will show you what speed you are now getting and compare it with the various options in your area. To use the test go to and you will see the “test button” in the box in the upper right hand corner of the page.

My rule of thumb for most home users is to go with price as both options are adequate.

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Anonymous Jack Dominic said...

I like it when I can give someone info that they can use. There are several ways to measure speed. In most cases it is the download speed, i.e. the stuff coming into the computer, that is important. Few of us send hugh files on a regular basis so uploading speed is of less importance.

4:34 PM  

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