A recent article on PCMag.com pointed to a PC Magazine survey detailing how Internet users rarely experience the connection speeds claimed by their Internet Service Providers (ISPs). Their “real-world” analysis shows that they rarely achieved the download speeds advertised by the various high-speed Internet providers. While there are several factors affecting your Internet speed, there are also some things Internet providers can do to “inflate” their reported connection speeds. The article goes on to suggest some questions you may wish to ask your ISP:
- What is the “contention ratio” where you live?
- Does your provider give preferential treatment to speed test sites?
- Does the provider perform “usage-based throttling?”
Many high-speed Internet users do not realize that they are, in fact, sharing the same “pipe” through which data flows with perhaps as many as several hundred other subscribers in their neighborhood. As more people sharing the same pipe access the Internet at the same time, performance declines. Therefore, if a service offers one megabit per second (Mbps) connection speed, it may be that 10 subscribers are sharing a 10-megabit pipe. Therefore, assuming that not every subscriber is active at the same time, your average “piece of the pipe” would be greater than one megabit. However, depending on the provider, there could be dozens of subscribers sharing this same 10-megabit pipe so that even your average share is much less than one megabit. As a result, you may only be able to achieve the advertised one-megabit connection speed during obscure hours—such as the wee hours of the morning.
Many Internet users who think their connection speeds are slower than they should be look to Internet speed tests to confirm their suspicions. However, it is possible for an ISP to offer preferential treatment to speed test sites, as they have tools on their end that allow and disallow certain types of traffic. This could very well be one of the reasons why the PC Magazine tests were consistently below what the ISPs claimed.
Finally, Internet providers have the ability to throttle or boost connection speeds for a short period and then slow you down if you continue downloading. This “burst speed” may be the connection speed the provider advertises but, again, you may rarely experience such high speeds.
While you should not feel that your ISP is out to get you, you should definitely get what you pay for. Therefore, these are some things to consider if you find that your connection speeds are not living up to expectations.
In closing, I wanted to say a few quick words to disenchanted users of Captools for Windows looking for a replacement portfolio management program. In this issue’s comparison, which begins on page 9, Cara Scatizzi compares eight portfolio management programs geared toward individuals. Perhaps more importantly, the sidebar on page 10 lists the programs that allow you to import your existing Captools data. Cara also details her experiences importing Captools data into these programs. For current Captools users with extensive portfolio histories, these programs may alleviate many of your worries.