How to Determine True Internet Speed

Step 1 – Connect to the Internet on a computer that is “hard-wired” to your modem or router to get the best possible signal.  Using a computer that is connected wirelessly is likely to test at slower speeds, since wireless connections are inhibited by signal interference.

Step 2 – Ensure that no other computers or equipment in your home are currently connected to the Internet. Unplugging isn’t necessary; simply do a quick check to see if family members are online.  Distributing your Internet signal across multiple connections will cause it to “split,” resulting in slower speeds for each device on your network.

Step 3 – Choose one of the many free resources available to test your Internet speed.  Use one of the options listed below in Resources, or search for the term “free Internet speed test” (in quotation marks) in your preferred search engine to see other possibilities.

Step 4 – Perform the speed test.  Allow up to 10 minutes for the test to complete; this speed will vary based on your connection.  Consider trying a few different tests to compile an average, or test your performance against various servers.

Step 5 – Write down your test results for future reference.  Be aware that some types of Internet service have a faster basic rate than others; dial-up is traditionally much slower than cable or fiber optic Internet services.  Refer to the FCC guide listed in the References section below to find out more about your Internet connection type, or to compare your connection type against other options.

Step 6 – Note that your test results may include data for multiple factors that affect Internet connection quality: download speed, upload speed, and latency (or “ping”).  Refer to the About page at Speedtest (listed below under References) to understand the difference between these types of data.  Pay close attention to “download speed,” as this is the number your ISP uses to advertise its services.

Step 7 – Analyze your Internet speed.  Review your monthly bill or your ISP’s website to see the advertised maximum for the service you have, and whether your speed is anywhere near the advertised rate.  Receiving 50 percent or less of the advertised speed indicates a problem with your service.  Contact your ISP to notify them of your slow speeds, and to get their advice on resolving the issue.

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