How to Choose an Internet Speed

By Randal Thomas

Anyone wanting to access the Internet requires a connection, but Internet connections vary by speed. Some Internet service providers provide one speed; others provider multiple speeds. If you choose the right speed for your needs, you'll probably enjoy your online browsing more than if you select the wrong speed. Fortunately, you can simply follow a few simple guidelines to select the right Internet connection speed.


Step 1

Know your choices. For instance, Internet connections come in a variety of speeds ranging from dial up to high-speed DSL and cable. Dial-up connections connect to the Internet via your phone line. Once connected, dial-up connections allow speeds of about 56 kilobytes per second (kbps). One thousand kilobytes equals 1 megabyte (MB), and a typical digital song file usually equals about 3 to 5 MB. Downloading common music files takes a long time via dial-up, probably more than two minutes. DSL and cable connections operate much faster. They allow speeds ranging from 5 megabytes per second (mbps) to 750 mbps. Medium-speed DSL connections start at 128 mbps. High-speed DSL reaches speeds of up to 750 mbps. Cable and satellite connections also provide high-speed internet connectivity. Cable connections reach speeds of up to 30,000 mbps. Satellite connections reach speeds of 2,500 mbps.

Step 2

Determine how you use the Internet. For instance, if you use the Internet primarily for reading text, a low-speed DSL or even 56K dial-up connection will suffice. If you use the Internet for reading and sometimes for downloading games or music files, a low-speed DSL of 56 mbps will suffice. If you play online games and listen to online music or watch low-quality movies, you’ll need a moderately fast DSL or cable connection. In order to watch high-quality movies or to download large files or to play multi-player games, select a high-speed DSL or cable connection.

Step 3

Select a reliable Internet service provider--some companies provide better customer service than others. Some providers offer different speeds and let customers test their service and upgrade without a setup charge. Some providers offer guaranteed price freezes, while others offer free connection equipment such as modems or routers.

Step 4

Make sure the price fits your budget. Cable and DSL Internet connections range from $19 to $75 per month. Dial-up connections range from $9 to $19 per month. Internet service providers sometimes will provide free setup for customers switching from a competing provider.

Step 5

Compare packages. For instance, some companies will provide high-speed Internet connectivity if you consolidate your cell phone or land-line phone service with them. Some providers offer discounted Internet service if you carry your cellular service or long-distance phone service with them.