I bet you text your significant other every day. Emails are all over your life. News, weather reports, what's playing at the cinema, what is that person's address or phone number? All this stuff is taken for granted. Now you can add various media streams like streaming football games, movies, TV shows, educational videos, YouTube fun, yep, it's all internet. Today's basic utilities are water, power, sewer, trash, and the internet. Life without the internet seems unimaginable.

Introduction

What is the internet? Well as far as our home media is concerned, it is our connection to the digital world. It is a wire coming into our home, a satellite dish on the roof, or a mobile phone connection. It is Google, email, texts, streaming movies, and TV shows. This is a complex topic, but you do not need to become an engineer to use and enjoy the internet.

There are two elements of the internet that you need to consider, speed and capacity. And like most things, the more you have, the more it costs. In short, the faster the internet speed, and the higher the internet capacity, the higher the monthly cost.

Internet Speed

When you do a search on Google, you are sending your text, your question, to the Google server and that text is a digital signal that has speed and capacity. Plain text does not need to be fast, and it does not consume very much capacity. You can text over the internet all day long and never worry about speed and capacity.

On the other end of the spectrum, you want to watch a Netflix movie. So, you go to the Netflix website and select the movie. Just going to the website and clicking here and there consumes capacity but not very much. When you start watching the movie, you are starting to consume a lot of capacity, and you need a lot of speed. This is streaming.

Now, in the other room of your house, your kids are also watching a Netflix movie so your internet consumption has doubled and you not only using some serious capacity, but you need some fairly good speed to keep both movies, which are streaming into your home, from stalling and interrupting the movies. If you do not have enough speed, the streaming movies must create a "backlog" or reserve of data in your home so they can play uninterrupted.

On top of that, let's say in another room, another one of your kids is playing a game on the internet. More capacity and the need for more speed.

You can compare internet speed with how fast the water is coming out of the hose. When the internet speed slows down, you are not able to operate as many devices at the same time without incurring speed problems like pixelization and dropouts.

Here's what the FCC says about speed, Broadband Speed Guide or the Household Broadband Guide.

Internet Capacity

The more time you spend on the internet and the more streaming activity you use, the higher and higher the monthly total capacity will be.

Your internet provider has figured all of this out and usually, the provider will offer different internet subscription packages tailored to your needs. Such as.

  • A basic package that will satisfy basic internet use in your home.
  • A family package
  • A high-speed package

These offerings are usually detailed out so you can guess what you need and sign up. If you guess too low, you may incur some overuse charges. If you guess too high you will see that you are only using a small amount of what you are paying for. (The SUBSCRIBER content gives you the info you need to make a pretty accurate guess the first time.)

Conclusion

Pick a data plan of around 200 GB per month and see what happens. If you consistently go over the limit, increase the plan. It's a moving target.

Do the research, check your Cable TV and DSL phone provider's websites. Decide and write it down, don't lose track of your research, you'll need it later.

Did I Lose You?

Here's a little more to clarify speed vs. capacity.

Internet Speed

Think of the internet coming into your house like the PVC pipe feeding the sprinklers in your yard. If you want the sprinklers to spread more water, you just twist the sprinkler knob on the pipe feeding the sprinkler system. Clockwise allows more water pressure to enter the sprinkler system and counterclockwise lowers the water pressure and the sprinklers spread less water. Simple, huh?

Well, internet speed works the same way. Your ISP (Internet Service Provider) can control the internet speed (water pressure) that is available to your home. More money equals more speed, less money equals less speed.

Just like your sprinklers need enough water pressure to spread enough water across your whole yard, the internet speed needs to be fast enough to serve all the internet-dependent devices in your home. The more devices you have (TV's, PC's, game players, etc.), the more speed you need.

Here's a breakdown on average internet speeds that are available to most of us. This is like the water pressure in your sprinkler system. Internet speed is measured in Mbps which means how fast the data will arrive (download) or leave (upload) your home.

  • 50-1,000       Fiber
  • 25-200          Cable TV
  • 5-45              Telephone or DSL (Digital Subscriber Line):
  • 10-30            Satellite
  • 5-10              Mobile phone wireless LTE:

This is in a perfect world. Your ISP does not have absolute control over all of the elements that impact their internet speed.

For Example: In your neighborhood, hardly anyone is using the internet at 3:00 am in the middle of the night but in the early evening at 7:00 pm everybody wants to be online. Does your internet provider network have the capacity to deal with these low and high usage times? Does the internet slowdown in the evening?

Here's a breakdown of what activity needs this internet speed (how much water pressure). See the (FCC Broadband Speed Guide) for more detail.

  • 1 Mbps     Everyday internet use
  • 1 Mbps     Streaming music
  • 4 Mbps    Online multiplayer game
  • 6 Mbps    Streaming a standard video
  • 8 Mbps    Streaming an HD video
  • 25 Mbps  Streaming an Ultra HD 4K video

For Example: If you have three kids playing online games at the same time, you will need 12 Mbps internet speed to accommodate their games. Now if you want to watch a streaming movie at the same time, you will either suffer movie interruptions (buffering) while the movie stream attempts to catch up with the movie playing speed or you can tell your kids that it time to do their homework and get off the internet.

Now you can calculate your internet use and decide on how much internet you need.

Internet Capacity

Internet capacity can be called internet consumption. Internet capacity is how much total data will your internet provider (Cable TV or DSL phone line) allows you to use every month. And just like speed, the more you use, the more it will cost you.

So how much data do you use every month? The national average in 2018 was less than 300 GB per household per month.

Typical internet plans offer steps like 300 GB, 400 GB, and 500 GB per month. Your providers will offer plans for your specific home address. There are a lot of variables involved which are related to the provider's network.

What happens if you use more than your plan allows? Does your internet shut down? Does it "throttle" down? Do you pay for overuse?

You really need to keep an eye on this to avoid and unpleasant or costly surprises.

Conclusion

You should be able to make a fairly good guess on what kind of internet service you need. You can always upgrade or downgrade later.

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ACTION ITEM: Check out the Internet Options in your area.

Get busy on the internet and see what's available.

Cable TV Provider

Phone Company

Satellite

Others?

Make some notes, do some shopping, get your feet wet