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Choosing Your Internet Speed– Google to Provide 1 Gb/s–what it means…

Submitted by on February 11, 2010 – 5:14 pmOne Comment

From www.speedtest.net; Shows my wifi speed is only 34 Mb/s and should be 60 Mb/s. Note how fast files download in box upper left.

I’m all for fast internet.  My local provider, BendBroadband, offers us 60 Mb/s download.  Let’s compare that to what most people can get now.  DSL offers 1 to 6 Mb/s. (Megabits per second) The speed of your internet connection determines how fast the data loads on your computer–that is, how fast does a page with lots of pictures show up or how fast movies start to (and continue to) play from online on your computer.

At 1Mb/s, you can’t really even stream Netflix movies from online.  That usually takes a minimum of 2 Mb/s and does better closer to 5 Mb/s.  At lower internet speeds, you have to wait while the movie “buffers,” –downloads the movie to the device. When you see that buffering notice, you have to wait until more of the movie loads until  it will continue playing. At those speeds, it can be annoying watching a movie or TV show at an online site.

Once you reach speeds of 10 Mb/s or more, you can start watching High Definition videos with relatively little interruption.

Moving up to 20 Mb/s,  websites load almost instantly and there are few buffer problems.  At 20 Mb/s, it is pretty fast to download a high definition movie you have bought or rented from an online service.

At 60 Mb/s (the speed I have now), there is rarely buffering of video (if there is, it’s because the website can’t deliver it as fast as I can get it), and I can, in many cases, download a high definition movie in under 15 minutes.

Google has announced that they want to deliver high speed internet to homes that will compete with cable and satellite internet providers and DSL.  Google claims that they can give you speeds around 1 Gb/s.  That’s a Gigabit per second or 1,000 Mb/s (compare that to 1 Mb/s or even the not-yet-available 100 Mb/s).  That’s ridiculously fast.  Can a website even deliver content to you that fast?

For many years I lived in a rural area and waited about 5 years after everyone else I knew got DSL.  Some friends in that rural area still can’t even get DSL.  We were told that it was too costly to lay the cables to provide fast internet to less populated areas.  A couple of years ago, cable providers were saying that it cost about $500 to $700 to lay the cable past each house in a surburban area. If your neighbor didn’t subscribe, it cost the cable company that same $500 +.  That means it cost  $1000 to $1400 or more to lay cable to your house (the subscriber).  The price continues past each house whether they subscribe or not.  Imagine if they have to go past a 40 acre ranch to get to you.  Or if you are the last house on the block and the only subscriber.  Even more, that amount doesn’t include the cost to set up the equipment and service it once it is installed.  How long would it take for them to recoup the cost of getting the internet to your house if you are only paying $50 per month for service?

There’s a great article in VideoNuze that discusses whether they believe Google can actually provide the 1 GB/s internet.  Check it out if you want to understand the business aspects of Google’s plan. It talks about their return on investment and other interesting facts.

CHOOSING YOUR INTERNET SPEED

What internet speed should you choose if you want to be able to watch movies?  5Mb/s might get you streaming high definition movies.  Broadband (provided by cable companies) provides the speeds above 10 Mb/s.   That is sufficient for streaming high definition movies and pretty good if you want to download them (to your AppleTV, Vudu, or when you buy a movie from Amazon.com etc.)  Still, if it’s a high definition movie you are downloading, (particularly VUDU’s HDX with better surround sound), and you want to watch it that same afternoon or evening, faster speeds are better.  Try to get 20 Mb/s or faster. Really fast speeds of 50 Mb/s and beyond provide seamless movie streaming with almost no buffering, photo pages coming up immediately, file downloads instantaneously, and movie downloads usually in less than half an hour.  If you want to download those movies, a faster internet speed means you can watch sooner.  Or, if you get impatient with how slowly pages and videos show up on your computer, you may want a faster speed.  So it depends on two things.  1.  Are you using the internet for entertainment like watching missed TV shows or streaming Netflix movies and 2. Are you willing to pay more or would you rather just be a little more patient?

But here is the big caveat…

Everyone who gets Broadband shares those speeds (actually called bandwidth).  People who hog the bandwidth by downloading lots of movies, etc. will get charged more if they use more than their fair share.  That’s why you may see a monthly limit of 100 or 150 GB per month.  You get charged extra for each gigabyte you use above and beyond that amount.  A high definition movie can be 3 GB.  If you watch more than one movie everyday (say you watch one and your kids watch one–that can easily be 7GB), plus download photos, watch YouTube videos, upload photos to Facebook or a website… it adds up.  A “free” Netflix movie could end up costing you $3.00 once you surpass your allotted 100 GB per month.  I have gone over a few times.

So fast internet is great.  But you have to pay attention to how many movies, etc. you are watching.  Many people have given up their cable to save money and think they’ll just watch videos, TV shows and movies online.  Be aware that you could end up spending the money you would have paid for a cable subscription.  Take it from my experience.

You can read more about your broadband limits here.

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