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 equals 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

There are two internet speeds to consider - download speed and upload speed. Since downloading is how most internet users spend their time, this is what we're focused on. 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.

Verizon FiOS

Offering up to 940 Mbps with its premium "Better Everything" plan, Verizon FiOS is the king for internet users who have a need for speed. Fios is a 100% fiber-optic network, and currently they offer three internet plans. Certain conditions apply, so be sure to check the Verizon site for the most current offers. 

  1. 100 Mbps - $39.99/month (1-year price guarantee)

  2. 300Mbps - $59.99/month (2-year price guarantee)

  3. Up to 940/880 Mbps - $79.99/month (3-year price guarantee)

Comcast XFINITY

With six different internet plans to choose from, Comcast XFINITY is another popular option for internet. Their fastest internet plan offers a speed of 1000 Mbps. If you don't need that much speed, they have internet plans starting as low as 25 Mbps. 

Cox Cable

Cox also boasts impressive, fast internet plans. Their "Gigablast" plan offers up to 940 Mbps download speed. Cox says this plan can handle more than nine connected devices and users at a single time.

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.