How much speed do you need online?

This is an older article originally printed in the Register-News.


Last week I explained some information about speeds that you can get at your home, and some suppliers of broadband Internet for home users. So, hopefully you understand a little about speeds and where you can get broadband (even in rural areas from or AT&T DSL).

With that explanation out of the way, we will attempt to decide how much speed you actually need. The first consideration will be what your PC can handle (last week). The second consideration however will be what you actually do online.

Many people believe that they need the fastest possible connection to the Internet to get the most out of their computer. ISPs love everyone who thinks that because the more bandwidth (speed) you pay for, the more money the ISP makes. Fortunately for us, most people will not need the outrageously priced top-end packages that providers supply.

For those who do Internet surfing, and basic emailing, the 1Mb speeds should be more than enough. This speed will easily allow you to surf Facebook, watch a little YouTube video, and check your email with no issues. If this describes you and you are able to downgrade your service without penalties, try it out and see if it works for you. This is not recommended if you have multiple computers in your home.

If you tend to watch television shows on your PC, I would strongly suggest a connection closer to the 5Mb range. This speed will enable light surfing on 2 to 3 computers or some show watching from one PC with light surfing from another. This is the speed I have at home, and it works just fine for everything I do and my kids playing Flash (lots of bandwidth) games on the main PC. If I try to listen to online music or watch while they are playing their games, I do notice some slowdown, so please keep that in mind.

The next step (using Chater’s speeds as steps) is a 10Mb speed connection. This speed should be more than ample to handle 2 computers streaming video or audio from the Internet, and light surfing from another PC. Also, this speed should be excellent for streaming movies (from Netflix for example) to your home TV while also surfing from another PC.

The final speed I have used is Charter’s 20Mb service. This speed is priced higher than the others, obviously, since it is significantly more bandwidth. This package, in my opinion, is only needed by people who will definitely be streaming movies from the Internet, watching television shows, streaming audio, and using multiple computers on their home network. This speed is faster than most websites will serve (deliver) information to your computer.

Why would you need more speed than sites use to send to you? Put simply, you don’t unless you have multiple PCs or do a lot of ‘streaming’ (movies, music, etc.) into your network. I cannot think of any reason one or two PCs would need this speed on a daily basis. I am more than willing to accept correction however if any of you readers can think of a valid reason.

These examples and suggestions are only my opinion. I have used all of these speeds at one point, and the suggestions are my opinions based on the experiences that I have had in my use. If you would like a breakdown of the data used by certain media, I can provide them.