When it comes to broadband Internet service, everyone wants the highest speed possible. But do you really need all that speed, or are you paying for more bandwidth than you’re using? On the other hand, if higher speeds aren’t available to you, can you make do with lower bandwidth?
The first thing you need to think about is what you actually do with your Internet connection, and how much bandwidth those activities require. Do you mainly stick to plain web browsing, or do you spend a lot of time streaming movies? Are you a gamer? Does your job require video conferencing?
According to the FCC, basic web browsing and email requires between 0.5 and 1 Mbps (Megabits per second). Streaming videos need at least 1.5 Mbps, and HD videos need at least 4 Mbps. Video conferences and gaming also fall in the 1-4 Mbps range.
Now that you know how much bandwidth you need for your activities, think about your household. How many people and devices will be using your connection at once, and what will they be doing? Remember that your Internet connection speed is shared between all devices in your house.
The FCC classifies broadband service as Basic (1-2 Mbps), Medium (6-15 Mbps), and Advanced (more than 15 Mbps). For a household with more than two devices being used at once, and running any high demand application, like streaming HD, online gaming, or video conferencing, they recommend Medium to Advanced speed, or at least 6 Mbps. If you use more than one high demand application on at least two devices, they recommend Advanced, or a minimum of 15 Mbps. However, for small households with only a couple of devices and limited high demand usage, Basic service can suffice.
If your service options are limited to Basic or Medium speeds, there are ways to get the most out of your connection. Turning down your streaming settings will allow you to stream at a lower speed. Limiting your use to one device for high demand applications can help them run better.
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