Updated: Oct 26, 2020
Written by: Andrew Connnely
Most of us over the age of 25 remember the days of dial-up internet – where we had to “connect” to the internet, and if we did, we tied up the phone line so other people in the house couldn’t make a phone call. Even if you were lucky enough to have a dedicated phone line for internet, you still had to sign-in and sign-out; connect and disconnect. Sometimes, that happened even when you didn’t want it to. In those days, speeds started at 9kbps and increased to 28.8, 36.6, and 56.6kbps as the 1990s progressed. The change in speeds were incremental and almost inconsequential.
Then came broadband or high speed internet. I was the first house on my street to have cable internet and it was the kind they called “one-way” – meaning that your download was 2Mbps over coax cable, but upload was still over dial up modem. Download speeds of 1-2000kbps were a vast improvement over 56.6k modems, and I remember thinking that my internet was *super fast*.
Fast forward 20 years and if my internet download speeds were 2Mbps, I would be calling the ISP and telling them that something is wrong with my internet. We’ve gotten used to always-on, always-connected, no-wires and no-limitations internet connections that would seem like science fiction to our 1990s selves. Yet, one of the most common complaints from end users is still: “My internet is slow”.
Internet speeds range from ancient 2Mbps in rural areas, to Multi-Gigabit in big cities, offices, or campuses. The average hard-wired home internet connection is still around 50Mbps, with many home users upgrading to 75-100+Mbps as ISP networks receive upgrades to accommodate services like Netflix and high bandwidth gamers.
So, then, what IS slow by today’s standards and how do you know if there is a problem with your connection?
There are many tools available for free on the internet that can help you see if you are getting the speeds you are paying for. All of them work pretty good – but some are more accurate than others. Some, even, are suited to internet connections under 500Mbps.
Speedtest.net (and speedtest app)
Ping (not a speed test, but a quality test)