Most Internet Service Providers have different prices & speeds of broadband to sell you. When it’s time to choose the right speed for your household, your ISP is the last person you should ask for advice. Almost every internet company will upsell you and convince you to overspend on your internet.
You’ll want to figure this out on your own, or with help from someone who doesn’t benefit from the sale. Please consider my commentary below and talk with other people you know and trust before picking/changing your internet speed. And don’t fret! Most ISPs will allow you to change your speed package, if you opted for something a little too slow or fast.
You don’t need as much bandwidth as your ISP claims. I just took a quiz on Xfinity’s website, answering honestly about what I would do if I bought their cable internet. Yes, I have multiple computers. I stream video. I have a lot of smart home devices on my Wi-Fi. I game online. They recommended I buy their 1G (1000Mbps) service for my lifestyle.
This is a stunner to me, because I currently have 50Mbps service in my home, and have never felt the need for higher speed. And I know that Xfinity offers 25, 100, 200, 300 and 600Mbps in my region. But their website is full of dark patterns and they aim to hide all of those more-affordable options from me. And I don’t mean to single out Comcast for this sneaky business: Shentel, Verizon and many other ISPs are guilty of this type of salesmanship.
Each household’s internet needs are different. You’ll want to take stock of what items in your home draw heavily on the internet, to know what speed to choose. Basic internet and email is not so important to worry about. And many of your smart home devices, like thermostats and smart bulbs, won’t need much bandwidth. Don’t factor them too heavily in your considerations.
Streaming Video is where you should start your focus. A single Netflix movie, played back in HD, is going to require 5Mbps. Other streaming services require between 5-8 Mbps to run well. So count up the members in your household who might be streaming at any time and multiply that by 5Mbps (or 10Mbps, if you want to estimate high). That amount of bandwidth should have you covered, in case all of them decide to all watch a different movie at the same time.
Next would be Online Gaming. If you have some gamers in your house, their bandwidth needs could be high. The lowest speed a gamer can get by on is 3Mbps, but most will excel with bandwidth in the 10-25Mbps range. So if you have 4 people connecting in the evening to various online games, you may need 100Mbps to keep them all connected and happy.
Now, let’s cover some other types of video: Got internet-connected security cameras? You can usually look up their internet needs on the manufacturer website, but just as an example: A Ring camera needs 2Mbps. Nest cameras can vary, but need no more than 4Mbps per camera. Going to video chat with other people? Skype recommends having 1.5Mbps for basic HD video calling, but upwards of 8Mbps if you’re roping many others into the same video call.
With all these examples in mind, imagine The Perfect Internet Storm, in your home. Visualize a day where you have maximum internet usage on all your heavy-hitting internet devices. Your teenager is gaming, while you watch a Netflix video and the spouse is Skyping with people on the Left Coast. All of that easily can be done with a 50Mbps connection.
Add it all up, and you’ll come up with a much more realistic speed number than your ISP would have you buy. If you find you’re already overbuying on internet, you can call your ISP and ask to downgrade, try something a little more affordable. Chances are good it’ll work well and save you a lot of money.