Ever wonder what your internet connection speed really is? Here’s the BEST place you can test it:
When you go there, be sure to wait a bit to allow it time to test your speed. It shows you in very simple terms what your download and upload speeds are.
Download Speed vs. Upload Speed
Download speed is much more important since that’s what you do most. Downloading is what you do when you surf the web, watch videos on the web, listen to music, download MP3s, get new programs, download Windows updates, etc. Uploading is not done much by most people. But if you have your own web site or you have an account somewhere where you upload music or videos (MySpace, YouTube, etc), then you do indeed need good upload speed. And if you’re a real geek and host a web site or file sharing on your own computer, then upload speed is important for that. But for most people, good download speed is what you need most.
Having said that, good upload speed is indeed more important now than it ever has been. And while it’s somewhat insignificant when compared to download speed, the need for upload speed is increasing. If you’re not sure of this, check out Time Magazine’s Person of the Year for 2006. More and more people are contributing content to the web all the time, and as this activity increases, so does the need for good upload speeds.
What About E-mail
It should be noted that most people don’t think of e-mail when talking about upload and download speed. This is because e-mail is all text, and it sends (upload) and receives (download) at an extremely fast rate. But if you send and/or receive large attachments a lot (or images in your e-mails), then this may be a concern.
Back to the speed test. In addition to telling you your numbers, it also shows you where your numbers rank in the world of internet speed. For example, if you have a cable modem (i.e. RoadRunner), it shows that you should expect your download speed to be at least 4 Mbps.
It’s also interesting to see on this chart how dialup speed compares to broadband for example. The highest dialup speed is 56 kbps. So if you have a cable modem, your speed should be 4 Mbps (or 4,000 kbps), or about 80 times faster than dialup.
Here’s a screen shot of the test I just ran. I’m pretty happy with it. It shows that I’m getting more than 4Mbps download, which is good. My upload is much less, but that’s okay by me.
The Deceiving Ads
Have you ever seen an ad for internet access that tells you the actual speeds? I suspect not. We always see these TV ads and billboards that tout “high speed” internet access. Many hotels claim to have free “high speed” internet. But what’s the definition of “high speed” anyway? AT&T claims to have the “fastest internet in town at the price“. So what the heck does that mean? SBC Global does a good job at competing with RoadRunner, but if the price is that much less, will you still get good speed? How do you know?
Think back to when you signed up for the internet access account you’re using right now. Did you even ask them what their speeds are? Don’t you think you should know what you’re getting before you buy? And if two neighboring hotels each offer “high speed internet”, whose is faster?
How about if we just cut through all the crap? The solution is very simple. Every internet service provider should be required to disclose these two numbers: download speed and upload speed, just like nutrition labels on food. The speeds exist, so just tell us what we’re getting, and we can then make smart decisions. But we know no government is going to force this (and perhaps none should). So it’s up to us, the consumers, to force them. What’s your speed? Ask your provider what your speed should be. Ask your friends and colleagues what their speed is. Do some comparisons, and you’ll finally know if you’re getting what you paid for.