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How to get the Internet performance you're paying for

How to get the Internet performance you're paying for
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You're paying a lot of money for your Internet connection, whether it's a basic 1.5 megabits a second package or a top-tier 100+Mbps screamer. So you want to make sure that you're getting your money's worth. Unfortunately, that isn't always the case.

If your Internet feels like it's dragging lately, it might not just be you. There are several reasons for an Internet slowdown, and we're going to walk you through examining your Internet connection so you can find the one affecting you. From there, you can talk to your Internet provider to get it back to the level you're paying for, or maybe get a break on your monthly bill.

But first ...

Before we go into that, however, we should take a second to talk about a common Internet misunderstanding. While Internet providers like to sell you on the idea that you're paying for speed, and many people in the tech community talk about Internet speed as well, what you're actually paying for is bandwidth. While speed is a part of bandwidth, there's a bit more to it.

Say you're watching an HD video on Netflix via a 50Mbps Internet connection. That HD video is only going to be using a tenth of your connection's capacity because that's all it needs. Paying for a 100Mbps connection isn't going to make the video smoother or higher quality.

The reason to have more bandwidth, then, is so you can watch multiple Netflix videos while also backing up your computer, streaming music, browsing the Internet and other things at the same time without hiccups. In other words, having more bandwidth is like adding another lane to the highway. The speed limit is still the same, but you can have more cars traveling at top speed at once.

So even if you haven't noticed a slowdown in your Internet connection, it doesn't necessarily mean that you're getting all the bandwidth you paid for. You might just not be using your Internet heavily enough to notice.

It's still a good idea to run the tests we're going to talk about. Also, if you are in a household with limited Internet use, you might want to think about scaling back on your Internet plan anyway. Learn more about making that decision and other ways to save on your Internet bill right now.

With that cleared up, let's start testing your connection.

Next page: Testing your bandwidth
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