Broadband ISP Speeds: Do the Numbers Mean Much in Real Life?

Description: There is so much talk about what you should expect from the speed of your ISP that it can be tricky to know what to believe and what not to believe. Read on to clear your head a little and find out how much those numbers really do mean.

Two Mbps, three Mbps, maybe even six Mbps or more? all of these are internet broadband speeds and you could be getting any one of them right now if your own computer is connected to broadband.

On the other hand you might not be getting anywhere near these figures - and the rub is that there is really no accurate way of telling.

Welcome to the wonderful world of broadband internet, where companies can tell you you're getting something - and charge you for it - and you will never really know whether or not you are getting what you are paying for.

Perhaps that is a little cynical, but when it comes to broadband ISP speeds and what those numbers really mean, you can answer the question in the title above with a yes and a no.

Firstly they do mean something. A broadband connection measured at six Mbps is naturally faster than a broadband connection which is only three Mbps. But it's not necessarily twice as fast, since the actual connection rate depends on a number of variables which can never be accurately measured. If the whole of America decides to go online in the evening, as often seems to happen, your own internet connection might be a lot slower than it is in the morning - regardless of what package and speed you have signed up for.

Of course, the speed matters if you are downloading files from the internet. A faster connection will enable you to download files far more quickly than a slower one.

But it's also true that broadband speeds don't matter when looked at in another context. If you take a look at the promotional information regarding any internet service provider's internet connection, you will see that it offers ?up to' however many mega bytes per second it advertises. That is the maximum you will get for that particular package, but the chances are that you will never get near that.

Of course it's likely that the better the package, the faster the service you will get, but it could be that a 6 Mbps package actually delivers around 4.5 Mbps, while a 3 Mbps package will get you around 2 Mbps on average. The actual number will peak at different times and drop at others, but only very rarely will it touch the heady heights of the top figure.

The internet speed you get may also depend on where you live. If you are out in the sticks with an internet line that can only take a maximum of 4 Mbps, then you will never be able to take advantage of an internet connection which gives you a service that is any faster than that - not unless the line is upgraded.

So while the numbers are important, they also don't mean much in a real situation - and therein lies the paradox of broadband.

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