There's a big problem in the consumer world when it comes to internet service. Too many people focus on "fast internet," not realizing that their activities barely need anything higher than 10 or 20 megabits per second (mbps). Although there are a few people who download big files—whether it's legal games and movies or illegal, pirated videos and software—if you're just having problems with browsing the web or watching streaming videos, you need to understand consistency as well. Here's what matters between speed and consistency so you can be sure of what you're paying for.
Internet Speed Is All About Big File Delivery
It's understandable that the average person will go for something that advertises itself as "fast" or "quick," but if you're not downloading huge files on a daily basis, what are you really paying for?
To understand the answer to that question, first understand what isn't a big file. Watching videos on Hulu, Netflix, Amazon Prime, Crunchyroll, Youtube or many other streaming video sites does not constitute a big video, no matter how great the quality.
Yes, streaming is a piece-by-piece transmission of what could be a big file if downloaded specifically, but the technology behind streaming is all about breaking those pieces of information down to a way that can be sent quickly and with as little information loss as possible for the most users.
Browsing different websites isn't a big deal, either. "Then why is it loading so slow, smart guy?!" you might exclaim, and that makes sense. A website that takes a long time to load needs to be faster, right?
Broadband internet is decades beyond what most websites need to load in under a minute. Unless you're using dial-up internet or a satellite internet connection in rural/hard to reach areas, every standard internet package that is about 10mbps is more than good enough for web browsing, checking email, streaming videos and playing online games.
Consistency Is Needed, But Hard To Track
If speed isn't the problem, why are some websites slow? Why do some videos seem to stutter a lot? It's often because the information sent to your computer is failing on the way there.
Internet transmissions aren't just a one-for-one transmission of the website or video information you need. There are rapid rules and techniques called protocols that govern how much information is sent, how information should be resent and how to package everything for transmission in the first place.
This means that when your website loads slowly sometimes, despite what should be a "good" internet connection, it's actually the website information failing to reach you, but being resent constantly until your computer acknowledges that everything has arrived. You're actually getting the website information many times in a few seconds, but either the website, your internet connection, or your computer has a problem with the information.
How can you take this into account when getting an internet service plan? Use websites such as DSLReports to perform speed tests and line quality tests, which can give you information on what's going on. You can read the diagnostic information to learn a bit yourself, or ask for advice from forums.
Most importantly, tell your internet service provider. If they're not listening or you don't have an internet service plan of your own, contact a broadband internet representative and discuss your internet needs, along with your consistency and speed expectations.