Fast Internet: Who Sets the Gold Standard?
When it comes to fast internet, the number that analysts look at – and internet service providers brag about – is megabits per second or Mbps. Megabits per second can be misleading because when we talk about file size, we think in bytes, not bits. When you see the abbreviation written as MBps, it means mega bytes per second. One bit = 1/8 of a byte, and knowing the conversion rate is helpful to understanding internet speed in general. For example, when an internet provider boasts about speeds up to 100 Mbps, it helps to know that 100 Mbps equals about 12.5 megabytes per second. A typical 10-song album in MP3 format is about 40-50 megabytes (40 MB) in size.
Download Speed vs. Upload Speed
The speeds we discuss below are download speeds since downloading is how most internet users spend their time. If you plan to post a lot of your own videos, share large files, or play in an online gaming environment that requires a fast connection, keep upload speed in mind when you shop around.
In a recent Wall Street Journal test of internet service providers, the companies below exceeded their advertised download speeds.
Offering up to 300 Mbps with its premium plan, Verizon FiOS is the king for internet users who have a need for speed.
With an “Extreme Plan” that provides users with more than 100 Mbps, Comcast XFINITY is another popular option. Comcast XFINITY is available coast to coast with a few exceptions: Montana, Wyoming, the Dakotas, Nebraska, Iowa, Oklahoma, and Nevada.
Though available in far fewer states than Comcast (only 18 at the time of this writing), Cox offers impressive average speeds as high as 150 Mbps. If you live in an area that Cox serves, it may be your best bet (other than FiOS).
Other providers that exceed their advertised download speed include ViaSat/Exede, Cablevision, and Mediacom, according to WSJ.
DSL vs. Cable vs. Fiber vs. Satellite
The Wall Street Journal also published findings of the “sustained download speed” achieved via different types of internet connections compared to what was advertised. DSL fared the worst, only downloading at about 90 percent of the advertised speed. Cable, fiber, and satellite all exceeded the advertised speed. Satellite came in first place, fiber came in second.