Reliable internet may be something you take for granted, but even the most basic plans represent a financial hardship for low-income households.
Free internet service is available in some cases. Here’s the criteria to qualify for free internet.
Do you work from home? Is someone in your house a hardcore gamer? Do you stream high-definition content from multiple devices at the same time? Your answers to these questions will help you determine how much internet speed you need.
How do you know if you’re paying too much if you do pay for the internet? First, make sure you’re getting what you paid for. If your plan includes 500 Mbps download speeds, you should be getting it. You won’t always see the exact number, but it should generally be close. Check your download and upload speeds at speedtest.net.
If you’re getting the speed you’re paying for but are noticing slowdowns, it could result from several factors. These include the number of connected devices, how many are streaming 4K, simultaneous streams, gaming, livestreaming, security cameras, video conferencing and more. In that case, you may need to upgrade your plan.
Another thing to check is if your router is in a good place. Walls and appliances can interfere with the wireless signal and slow everything down. You want to place your router high up and away from other electronics. Tap or click here for more tips on finding the best spot for your router.
RELATED: Find free Wi-Fi anywhere (but follow our No. 1 public network security rule)
Streaming service recommendations
Popular streaming services recommend internet download speeds to help you know what you’ll need to stream smoothly. Here are some examples:
- Netflix recommends 3 Mbps for 720p HD, 5 Mbps for 1080p HD and 15 Mbps for 4K/UHD.
- To stream YouTube videos, you should have 1.1 Mbps for standard 480p, 2.5 Mbps for 720p HD, 5 Mbps for 1080p HD and 20 Mbps for 4K.
- Skype recommends 300 Kbps for standard video calls, 1.5 Mbps for HD video calls, and 2 Mbps for group video calls of three people, and the numbers go up the more people you have in your session.
- Pandora recommends a consistent 150 Kbps for standard music streaming and at least 300 Kbps for high-quality audio.
- Amazon Music recommends at least of 1.5 Mbps or higher for uninterrupted music.
So how much internet speed do you really need?
You may not require blazing internet speeds depending on how much you do at home. You’ll be OK with lower speeds if you’re streaming content on one device and primarily checking email and social media from your phone. If your home is full of smart and connected devices, you’ll want the service to support all of them.
Here are some general guidelines to get started:
- If you only have a few devices connected to your Wi-Fi and use your network primarily for web browsing, a plan with 10 Mbps should be enough.
- If you watch many videos and download tons of media, 25 Mbps should be good for you.
- Online gamers and streamers need 100 Mbps or more.
- For simultaneous streaming, online gaming and downloads on many devices, you’ll do well with 500 Mbps.
Keep an eye on your data cap. Your ISP may throttle your speed or even charge you for exceeding the cap if you go over it.
Consumer reports created an internet speed calculator to determine how many Mbps you need. It’s easy to use and can give you a rough estimate to get you started. Tap or click here for more information.
Once on the site, you’ll see a list of devices that need the internet to perform. It includes devices to check email, stream 4K content, group video calls and more.
Hit the plus + button for each device you use. For example, if you have two TVs that stream 4K content, hit the plus + button twice to represent those devices. Do that for each device that connects to your Wi-Fi and the tool will let you know how much internet speed you need.
People in rural areas don’t have the luxury of choice compared to urban dwellers. Poor connection speeds are more common in sparsely populated areas, and in those cases, a satellite may be the best option.
Unlike cable, fiber or DSL internet, satellite service is available virtually anywhere. You can do all the same things, such as stream and game, but satellite prices are commonly higher while speeds are typically lower.
A reader wrote in last year asking about satellite service. They also asked about extending their internet service on their property without getting a second service. We answered their questions and gave some product and service recommendations. Check it out here.
Money-saving secret your cable and internet provider doesn’t want you to know