The FCC’s first-ever test of broadband speeds across the country, Measuring Broadband America, compares providers, technologies and the actual speeds they provide. Here’s a step-by-step guide to using that information, and other resources, to make choices about the kind of broadband service that’s best for you.
- Upload speed. This is the speed at which you can send information from your computer or device to the web. It’s especially important for video conferencing, sharing larger files online, interactive learning, medical applications that use HD imaging, and two-way online gaming – as well as advanced “cloud computing” that involves ongoing communication between your computer and the web. Ideally, all of these applications would work best if upload speed were as high as download speed, but service providers generally don’t offer that option. If these applications are important to you, use our Broadband Speed Guide to find the download speed you need, and look for a service that has upload speeds reasonably close to that level.
- Latency. Sometimes, because of the way networks are built and how much traffic they move, there can be delays in how packets travel. This kind of time lag is called latency. High latency can be a problem with applications that require real-time back-and-forth communication, such as online phone calls, video conferencing, or gaming. Our wireline broadband measurement report has data from national tests on the measure of latency found with different kinds of service.
- Data limits. Some broadband providers limit the total amount of data you can download and/or upload, for example, to 150 or 250 gigabytes (GB). In thinking about whether such data limits may affect you, it may be helpful to know that a standard definition movie is typically between 1 to 2 GB, while an HD movie may be 3 to 5 GB. If you are unsure, you should talk to your provider.