When it comes to internet speed, there’s no such thing as one-size-fits-all. Any speed above 10 Megabits per second opens the door to email and web browsing. But, if multiple people in a household are binging Netflix and online games, they’ll need more.
Fortunately, most local residents now can access up to 1 gigabit of speed (that’s 1,000 Mbps!), but no matter how much speed comes to the home, other factors determine the speed measured inside the home. These are the top seven factors that affect internet speed:
1) The provider: The capabilities of local internet providers determine the maximum speeds available to a home. Their consistency in delivering them is measured by the Federal Communications Commission. The FCC has a program called Measuring Broadband America that tests internet speeds of providers that volunteer (www.fcc.gov/general/measuring-broadband-america). The FCC’s most recent report showed two local providers, Cox and AT&T, delivered more than 100 percent of their promised speeds around the clock.
But the service provider can only control how fast data is transported across its network. A number of other variables affect the speed experience once the data reaches the router and devices inside the home. The remaining factors are under the control of the consumer and impact the actual maximum speeds devices in a home will run.
2) The type of devices: Some devices can’t keep up with today’s speeds. Like a car, different makes and models of devices are capable of different speeds. Age also is a factor.
For example, an iPhone 7 is capable of download speeds up to 221 Mbps, and a Dell Latitude E7470 is capable of speeds up to 310 Mbps. Even if a consumer pays for gigabit delivery, those are the maximum speeds those devices can achieve under the best conditions.
3. The ethernet cables: Old ethernet cables, those that connect the computer to the modem, can slow speed. In fact, there is only one type of ethernet cable capable today of delivering gigabit speed: the newest Cat5e/Cat6 cables.
4. The method of access — wired vs wireless: It’s never been easier to enjoy internet access anywhere, but the trade-off for mobility is decreased speed. Even the best WiFi connections typically max out below 500 Mbps.
5. The volume of usage: Having too many programs and apps open on a device drains the power available to achieve maximum speed. And, the more devices sharing the bandwidth, the more the speed decreases for each device.
6. The devices’ security: A slow connection could indicate a virus or other security breach. Using anti-virus software is crucial to overall internet performance. Unfortunately, security measures also may slow speeds.
7. The browser and operating system: Newer is better. When it comes to operating systems, Windows 8.1 or Mac OSX 10.8 (or newer) will deliver the best speeds. Also, speeds can vary significantly by browser.
These are the factors that determine the speed and test results consumers experience.
Maureen Tartaglione is regional manager of government and public affairs for Cox Communications.