IMPORTANT: Bandwidth is NOT speed. Speed is LATENCY, Bandwidth is CAPACITY. 

What is the actual speed of the Internet? Of course, providers throttle the Internet speeds, but what is the actual un-throttled speed of the Internet?

​First: Bandwidth isn’t speed, it’s capacity. We know everyone calls it speed, but it isn’t.

​If you rephrase the question with that in mind, what is the actual bandwidth… it varies dramatically. You could state that the maximum theoretical bandwidth obtainable between any two points on the internet is the available bandwidth on the link with the least bandwidth available between those two points.

​In other words, the maximum bandwidth is the amount available on the weakest link.


At what point does your residential internet speed no longer make a big difference?

​Firstly, bandwidth isn’t speed, bandwidth is capacity. We know everyone calls it speed, but that’s misleading (and it’s why many, many people buy upgrades much greater than they could ever possibly use, much to the delight of the ISP’s cashing the checks).


Can the Internet’s speed get any faster? Is there a limit?

​We’d need to qualify what you mean by speed - most people mean bandwidth (which is capacity) when they refer to speed. (This may help if that’s confusing: What Is Latency? | Student Housing Internet Network Design | Campus Technologies Inc).

​Latency is bound by the laws of physics, particularly the speed of light. Bandwidth, though (capacity) is virtually limitless.

​Once you get over a certain bandwidth (20–50 Mbps) adding more bandwidth will not make any difference at all to your user experience. However, reducing latency will.​

How is ping related to download/upload speed?

A ping is the common name for a special protocol packet (the protocol is called ICMP) that carries a small measured payload on a round trip from you to the pinged destination and back again. The time is expressed in milliseconds, or thousandths of a second.

​That time is generally referred to as latency. The lower the latency of a connection the better, single digits is great (i.e. < 10ms).

​Latency has a much greater effect on the usability of a connection than most people realized. As long as you have about 20 Megabits of bandwidth, adding more bandwidth will have almost no effect. Reducing the latency will have a really noticeable effect on almost everything you do, especially video streaming.


How does the distance of my computer from my router affect my Internet connection speed?

[Answered on the assumption you’re talking about a WiFi connection]

​The throughout of a WiFi connection depends (for a variety of reasons) on the amount of usable signal. Just like sound gets quieter as you get further away and louder as you get closed, the signal gets weaker as you get further away. The usable signal is the signal itself minus noise (aka interference), and the further away you are, the lower the ratio of signal strength to noise gets. Wireless engineers refer to this is Signal To Noise ratio, or SNR.

​There are many technical tricks that hardware designers use to try an make usable range as far as possible, one of those is reducing the signal bandwidth needed to maintain a connection the lower SNR gets. That reduced signal results in lower throughput.

​There are many other things at play here - 5GHz band vs 2.4, modulation techniques and so on, but the basics are that you need a strong signal (good SNR) to carry the maximum throughput your network is capable of, and that gets less as the signal gets weaker.

​Will a 1GB/s internet speed help me in stock trading?

​No, because bandwidth isn’t speed. 1GB/sec is no faster than 1Kb/sec and can in fact be slower.

​The speed of an Internet connection - the time it takes to send a message and receive a response - is it’s latency and is measured in milliseconds. Bandwidth is a measure of capacity.​

Is it still possible to decrease worldwide Internet latency further?

In short: increase fiber efficiency, reduce number of non-fiber transits and interchange points (that introduce latency). And of course the big Kahuna, stop using WiFi to access the Internet as that will kill your latency stone dead long before you get to worry about the speed of light.

If you were to ask about decreasing the effects of worldwide Internet latency, then there are also payload changes such as reducing conversations (for example, but not limited to less TCP, more UDP) especially for latency sensitive traffic.

​Why do I get a slower speed than I pay for?

​You may not like the answer.

​You’re paying for a connection, and a capacity of ‘up to’ an advertised bandwidth. Let’s say that’s 50 Mbps download. Any bandwidth lower than that number is still ‘up to’ so it is what you’re paying for.

​If you look at the small print on your service agreement, chances are that it says ‘up to’. It probably also says it might not work at all, and that it isn’t fit for any particular purpose, and in no event is the provider liable.

​Of course there could be good technical reasons. Not all providers deliver less than the contracted bandwidth (Verizon’s FiOS, that I’m using right now, is usually really close). The technical reasons you get less bandwidth are many and varied, but are usually to do with WiFi. Connect a computer directly to your modem and see what throughput you get.


What’s the best way to speed up my Internet without spending any money or upgrading my Internet service?

Simple answer: Stop using WiFi. Using wireless will in most cases rob you of a significant amount of both latency and capacity.

Just connect directly to your router with an Ethernet cable.

Then - make sure the DNS you are using is the one with the lowest latency available to you. This covers the topic and a lot more on DNS performance. 8 Tips on How to Reduce DNS Lookups and Speed Them Up


Why does the rain make the internet slower?

The quick answer is that is doesn’t, unless you are traversing a radio link that is attenuated by rain fade. It’s possible - though unusual - that your ISP could use a radio link that suffers from this. Milliwave radios between 40 and 80 GHz are especially susceptible. Satellite connections can be similarly affected.

​Most people though, don’t connect this way.

​More likely, it’s raining so more people are accessing the Internet, and you’re using a cable modem or an ISP that oversubscribes the available bandwidth.


Does a DSL connection choose the fastest stable speed or the fastest possible speed?

​The answer is both, really. DSL uses a number of channels, and will drop them individually if they are unstable. The sustainable throughput is the number of channels that can produce results. in general the maximum achievable is based on distance and interference.

​Please note that bandwidth isn’t speed, it’s capacity, so the reduction in channels due to interference or other degradation will reduce the links capacity but not necessarily it’s speed (or latency).