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Do you need Gigabit internet service?

Tech Talk

You can get a gigabit internet service package from Spectrum or Race to provide internet service at home or work. But do you need internet service that fast?

We measure internet speeds in Mbps (megabits per second). 1 Mbps can transfer one million bits of data in a second, but that's not fast these days.

So, a gigabit internet connection can deliver up to 1,000 megabits of data per second. Another way of looking at it is delivering a billion bits per second of internet goodness to your home or office.

Internet plans available in Tehachapi range from 3 Mbps to 1,000 Mbps across all providers. In 2023, the average broadband speed in the United States is about 200 Mbps, which puts the US at fifth or sixth in the world, depending on whose list it is. The FCC's outdated definition of broadband (non-dial-up) internet service is 25 Mbps. How quaint.

So, how much internet do you need?

Checking your email and shopping online requires about 3 Mbps of service. Watching YouTube videos in HD or being on a Zoom call requires approximately 5 Mbps each. Online multiplayer games require 5 to 50 Mbps, primarily for transferring small data packets to the game servers. Watching a video in 4K from Netflix or any other streaming service requires about 25 Mbps.

A convenient average is 25 Mbps per user in the home. If we average four people per household, a 100 Mbps connection would easily support everybody doing all the internet things simultaneously.

Of course, there are a few qualifiers here. Every internet provider uses advertised speeds, which usually means "up to." So, you're paying for "up to" 300 Mbps of service, but you might regularly see only 250 Mbps. What's going on?

Lots of things. Marketing, maybe? Saying "up to" a certain speed to catch up with a competitor by spending no money upgrading your technology. Distance? The farther away you are from your provider's equipment, the slower your connection could be. Oversubscription? Many providers assume not everyone will fully use the network simultaneously, so the network slows down when everyone does. Sometimes way down. Server-side problems? Internet traffic routing depends on many things; sometimes, events far away can affect your local traffic.

But the biggest reason you might see your internet as slower than the speed you're paying for? Old hardware. Either an Ethernet card in an older computer, an older Wi-Fi card in a laptop, an old Wi-Fi router, or even an old modem from your internet provider. Fix that stuff first (replace the card or the computer, replace your Wi-Fi router, or have the provider replace their modem and router), then test again.

How do you test? Use http://www.fast.com or http://www.speedtest.net to check your internet speed.

One more thing. In Tehachapi, both Spectrum and Race offer gigabit services. Is there a difference? The difference is your upload speed. Because of how they build cable networks (asynchronous architecture), upload speeds will be about a tenth of your download speeds. The way they make fiber networks (synchronous architecture) allows for similar download and upload speeds.

So, who needs a gigabit internet connection? If you do a lot of video or photo editing and need to upload huge files, you need a fast connection and probably a fiber connection. Same for gamers downloading large games and patches. A gigabit internet connection is helpful for those who work with databases, upload lots of files, or have large, connected families.

But really, 200-300 Mbps is plenty for most of the rest of us.

That might be good, though.

My internet connection is so slow that somebody downgraded my 15 minutes of fame to two minutes of mild notoriety.

Do you have a computer or technology question? Greg Cunningham has been providing Tehachapi with on-site PC and network services since 2007. Email Greg at [email protected].