Which Broadband Internet Service is Right for You?

A true test to the type of broadband Internet service you need is how the service will hold up to your online needs. Want to watch streaming video or listen to streaming music? Are you into online gaming? These and other activities should be taken into consideration before choosing the type of broadband service that suits your needs.


What’s your speed?

If you currently have broadband Internet service, you can test the speed of your service online by using an Internet speed test. This test will not only show you your current speed, but also help you determine if you need an upgrade in service.

Broadband services available

The types of broadband technologies include DSL, cable modem, wireless, satellite, and fiber. Not all of these services may be available for everyone, so it’s best to see what is available in your area.

  • DSL – uses wireline transmission technology to transmit data faster over traditional copper telephone lines which are installed in homes and businesses.
  • Cable modem – allows cable operators to provide broadband service using the coaxial cables, which deliver cable TV to your home.
  • Wireless – connects to the Internet using a radio link between your location and the service provider’s facility.
  • Satellite – this is a type of wireless broadband that uses satellite technology to link customers to broadband service.
  • Fiber – converts electrical signals carrying data to light and sends the light through transparent glass fibers. This method of broadband is much faster than DSL or cable modem speeds. It is not widely avaiable yet; however, Google Fiber may change that.

How fast can you go?

What type of speeds do you need to do what you want, be it common web browsing, watching movies or online gaming? We took a look and compared different types of broadband speeds, thanks to some help from the Broadband Classroom.

Speed: 1.5 Mbps to 3 Mbps

You can: web browse, email, listen to streaming music and watch standard definition video (SD)*. At this speed, you can download a book 1 MB in size in 2.7 seconds, a song at 4 MB in 10.7 seconds, and a movie 6144 MB in size in 4 hours and 33 minutes.

Speed: 6 Mbps to 10 Mbps

You can: Play online games and watch videos on demand, but only on one device. If you have more than one person sharing your connection, expect buffering*. At this speed, you can download a book 1 MB in size in 0.8 seconds, a song at 4 MB in 3.2 seconds, and a movie 6144 MB in size in 1 hour and 22 minutes.

Speed: 10 Mbps to 15 Mbps

You can: Attend classes via remote education (distance education programming courses online) and watch HD TV programming*.

Speed: 15 Mbps to 50 Mpbs

You can: Use HD video surveilliance, and run multiple activities online (streaming video, music, and gaming) on more than one device, without delays*.

Speed: 50 Mbps and up

You can: Use video conferencing with multiple users, use remote super computing, and collect of data in real-time*. At this speed, you can download a book 1 MB in size in 0.1 seconds, a song 4 MB in size in 0.3 seconds, and a movie 6144 MB in size in 8 minutes.

If you are just a casual web browser who needs access to check an occasional email, you may not need download speeds of 50 Mbps. If you and your family have several connected devices, with each person using some sort of streaming service at one time, then you may need one of the higher speeds available. It’s best to evaluate your needs, so you won’t be left in the dust, buffering indefinitely.

*Information related to broadband speeds comes from David Salway, director of the Broadband Program Office for New York State.