Internet Speed

What is internet speed, and more importantly, why is my Netflix buffering?

I am going to try to answer these questions with an analogy of trucks driving on the interstate. In a truck, speed is measured by miles-per-hour and is shown on the speedometer. If you are driving on the interstate from Brookings to Watertown, there is one maximum speed limit that determines how fast you can go.

Internet Speed 

What is meant by "speed on the Internet" can confuse people. Internet speed is not like a truck’s speed on the interstate. It is not a measure of how fast you can go on the internet. Unlike the real interstate where trucks can go faster and slower, all traffic on the internet travels at the same rate. On the Internet, bandwidth is a measurement by how many trucks can go down the interstate, side by side, with your data in them.

For example, if you have a 15 Mbps (megabits per second) package, then you have 15 trucks carrying data for you. Since all the trucks are already driving as fast as they can, the only way to get more trucks at the same time to your house is to add more lanes to the interstate. If you think of 1 Mbps as 1 lane of traffic, then 15 Mbps is 15 lanes of traffic. Each lane is full of trucks, ready to carry data. The more trucks, or bandwidth you have, the more data you can haul at the same time.

Streaming Video

So how does that translate to your Netflix connection? To play a video, Netflix recommends that you have 5 Mbps available for each HD Netflix stream. If you are trying to watch Netflix on two different devices, then you would need 10 Mbps to watch it on those two devices at the same time. If you want to watch Netflix in Ultra HD, then you need 25 Mbps per device. What this means is that you need 5 trucks to watch HD Netflix or 25 trucks to watch 1 stream of Ultra HD video.

While you are watching your programs, those trucks are also working on getting other data to you. If you decide to open a webpage, check your email, or watch something else at the same time, then those trucks are now split between hauling your Netflix data, website, or email data. If you try to do to too much, you might run out of trucks (bandwidth).

When you are using all your bandwidth, all your trucks are full, driving as fast as they can, and driving on all the lanes they can. When that happens, your internet is full. If you try to open another web page, watch another video, or do something else on the Internet, then you end up waiting because you don’t have enough trucks available. This is called traffic congestion, just like in real life. With your video, this is when buffering starts to happen.

Keep Everything Up-To-Date

The things that can affect your Internet speed are using old wires, old routers, and other old equipment. If the equipment is outdated, or not properly configured, then the interstate gets full of potholes, and the trucks can’t use the lanes. If you notice your internet seems to be slow quite often, or your videos are always buffering, give us a call. We can look to make sure your Internet plan meets your unique needs. We have more trucks ready to go!

-Michael Martinell, The Broadband Guy