Internet bandwidth can be thought of as an electronic byway that connects the Internet to your computer. Increasing bandwidth (widening the lane) allows more traffic to flow, increasing speed. Having a little or a lot of Internet bandwidth available makes the difference between watching a graphic-intensive Web page load in phases over a period of several minutes, or having it pop into your window like a flash of lightening. The more bandwidth your connection has, the faster it will load and the more time you will save.
Internet bandwidth test meters are available online to test your connection speed. The hosting site will upload blocks of data recording the amount of time it takes to complete the transfers. Speed is a measurement of how much data can be transferred from the Internet to your computer per second. A graph will reveal the results, allowing you to see if your connection is performing as expected. Close unnecessary background processes and programs before you start, and take several bandwidth tests from several sites to establish an average, true speed.
Unfortunately we cannot “unthrottle” bandwidth at will. Internet service providers (ISPs) allot computer connections so much bandwidth based on the price of the package purchased. To get more speed, you have to upgrade to a package with a greater allowance of bandwidth. In the case of dial-up, the slowest type of Internet service, the technology itself limits the connection speed to less than 56 kilobits per second (kbps). As a point of reference, one Megabyte is 8,192 kilobits so transferring one Megabyte of data over dial-up can take close to three minutes. This limitation eventually pushes most customers towards faster technologies.
There are several different types of high-speed Internet one can get depending on local availability. Options include Digital Subscriber Line (DSL) offered over conventional copper telephone wires, cable Internet via the neighborhood cable TV provider, and fiber optic services available over newer fiber optic wires that are replacing conventional copper lines in many regions. If you live in a rural area, dial-up or satellite Internet might be your only choices.
DSL serves up the most affordable Internet packages, several times faster than dial-up. DSL entry-packages can start as low as $13 - $15 US Dollars (USD) monthly for speeds up to 768 kilobits per second (kbps). A connection of this sort normally delivers one Megabyte of data in 12-15 seconds, a big improvement over dial-up’s three minutes. DSL also offers much faster packages that compete with cable.
Entry-level cable packages typically offer a heftier allotment of Internet bandwidth, perhaps up to 3000 kbps (advertised as three megabits per second), delivering a Megabyte in about three seconds. Subscription prices vary, generally starting at $30 - $40 USD monthly. Packages increase in speed and price from there, though many cable providers offer only a single package. The faster the package, the higher the price tends to be within the normal range of the cable market.
Fiber optic Internet services start as high as 10 or 20 mbps, with top-tier packages offering 50 mbps of Internet bandwidth. That’s a transfer rate (speed) of roughly a Megabyte per second, two Megabytes per second, and five Megabytes per second, respectively. The fastest possible Internet packages currently offered cost an excess of $100 USD monthly.
Cable and fiber optic services will often bundle TV and digital phone with Internet access for one monthly bill. Bundles are optional and can be customized to exclude a service that isn't required. For those who would like DSL but do not have landline service, some telephone companies now offer “naked DSL” or DSL without telephone service for customers who use their cell phones instead of landlines.
To find an ISP with affordable Internet bandwidth in your area, enter your town into a search engine with the type of service you’d like: DSL, cable or fiber optic service. You can also visit the websites of your local telephone and cable companies. Additionally, there are several websites dedicated to comparing, reviewing and listing ISPs by region and area code. Some of these sites allow customers to leave feedback regarding their opinions and experiences with DSL providers, cable companies and fiber optic providers.