From the home office to your living room, a residential internet connection has become essential for most of us. But are you getting everything you’re paying for?
I’m an information technology professional. And in this article, I’ll explain how to test your internet to make sure you’re getting the speed that matches your monthly bill and discuss the factors that affect your internet performance.
Follow These Steps To See if You’re Getting the Internet You’re Paying For:
- Run a Speed Test
- Check Your Internet Bill
- Call Your Internet Service Provider
- Check for Other Factors That May Be Impacting Internet Speed
Run a Speed Test
The first step is to measure how fast your internet actually runs. You can do this for free by conducting a speed test.
A speed test identifies your location and the location of the server that is nearest to you. It sends a ping to the server to determine how long it takes for the ping to reach the server. It will measure two things: the download speed which is the speed the server sends data to you, and the upload speed which is the speed at which data is sent from your devices to the internet.
Here are a few services that I have tested myself.
Speedtest is a free and easy way to check your internet speed. Run a scan using your internet-connected devices and Speedtest will report your connection speed. Visit the website and click “Go” to run the test.
Fast.com is another site you can use to check your speed. The test starts as soon as you land on the website.
mLab is another speed test website. They are open source and provide a more comprehensive analysis of your connection speed.
Internet Service Provider
Most internet service providers (ISP) have their own speed tests. Visit your internet service provider’s website to see if they offer the test. Here are some links to the speed test pages of a few popular companies:
Check Your Internet Bill
Once you determine the speed you’re getting, compare it to your last internet bill. If you find that your speed is very different from what you should be receiving, call the company.
Keep in mind that the speed quoted by your internet service provider is a top speed. Most customers will not get the top speed, but it should come close. If there is a dramatic difference between what you’re getting and what you should be getting, your ISP can troubleshoot the issue for you.
Other Factors That Impact Internet Speed
It’s not always the fault of your ISP if you are getting a slower speed than promised. Here are some factors that can cause your internet connection to slow down.
Most homes have a combination of hard-wired and wireless devices. A hard-wired connection will always be faster than a wireless one. Whenever possible, connect your devices to a hard-wired connection.
Some homes, especially newer ones, have ethernet cables running throughout the house. This allows you to connect devices like your smart TV, video games, smart appliances, computers and other equipment. If you’re building a new home, consider running cables to all of the rooms during construction. If you don’t have existing lines you can run them yourself, but this can be expensive and time-consuming.
If you don’t want to run cables, you can use wireless to connect all of your devices. Make sure you have a good wireless router and consider a mesh system that adds “extenders” to your network for a better connection. A mesh network is a set of devices that behave like a single wireless network, so there are multiple sources of Wi-Fi throughout your home.
If your devices are located far from the wireless router you will likely experience performance issues and connection problems. Using a mesh system is ideal for larger homes or even smaller homes where you are not receiving a strong Wi-Fi signal.
Gaming and streaming use a lot of bandwidth. How your ISP distributes its service to customers is also a factor. Most residential broadband services share bandwidth, so the network traffic at any given time can have an impact on your speed.
Other devices in your home can interfere with your wireless network. These include baby monitors, Bluetooth devices, walkie-talkies, microwave ovens, fluorescent lights, wireless security cameras, radar motion detectors, analog audio systems and even your neighbor’s Wi-Fi. Try to locate your router in an area that is far away from those types of devices.
Age of Equipment
Another factor that determines your speed is the age of your equipment. If you have older computers, tablets, phones and laptops they may not get a connection that is as fast as newer equipment with updated network adapters and other hardware. Older equipment on your network can also slow down the speed of your newer devices.
Try to position your router in a central location that is free of interference from other devices in your home. Don’t put your router in a confined space such as a closet or cabinet.
Homes with a lot of brick, metal, thick timber and concrete can block a wireless signal. Signals can be weakened when passing through walls. We have a few ways to improve your Wi-Fi signal here.
Viruses and other malware can also have a negative impact on your speed. If your computer or another device is infected, the malware can connect to the internet without your knowing it and use up your bandwidth. It is important to keep a quality antivirus program installed on your computers, laptops and mobile devices to prevent infections.
Now that you’ve determined whether you’re getting the internet speed that you’re paying for, you might be wondering if there are ways to cut the cost. Here are a few ways to reduce your internet bill:
- Switch to a new provider: When signing up for a new service, you often receive a promotional offer that typically expires after a year. And then the rates go up. (There are also upfront installation charges, although some providers wave this fee for new customers.) You can also call your current provider with a competitor’s offer to see if they’ll match it.
- Purchase your own modem: If you need a cable modem for your connection, there is often a monthly rental fee. You can avoid that charge by purchasing your own cable modem. It will likely pay for itself in just a few months.