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Like many goods and services offered for sale, broadband Internet connections are offered using a tiered marketing scheme in an attempt to appeal to a wider audience and create the appearance of choice. However, there are often few differences among the tiers.
Broadband Internet connections are tiered to offer consumers choices among a variety of Internet speeds. These tiers are more costly the higher you go. Before you upgrade your broadband Internet connection, ponder these three questions to get the most from your online experience.
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1 – What Does It Mean to Upgrade a Broadband Internet Connection?
As mentioned above, broadband Internet services are tiered offering more or less download and upload speeds as you go up and down the tiers. For example, Time Warner RoadRunner service offers the following tiers of Internet connectivity (note: Kbps = Kilobits per second and Mbps = Megabits per second):
Lite – 768 Kbps (download) / 128 Kbps (upload)
Basic – 2 Mbps / 384 Kbps
Standard with Power Boost – 7 Mbps (10 Mbps bursts) / 512 Kbps
Turbo with Power Boost – 15 Mbps (25 Mbps bursts) / 756 Kbps (1 Mbps bursts)
Extreme – 30 Mbps (50 Mbps bursts) / 5 Mbps
Note that not all of the tiers are offered to all areas of Time Warner Cable’s RoadRunner coverage. In addition, the prices of these tiered services differ from area to area. Notice that the download and upload speeds vary greatly among the different tiers. Paying more or less money for a tier essentially offers you faster or slower download and upload speeds.
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2 – Will an Upgraded Broadband Internet Connection Really Increase My Download and Upload Speeds?
The Internet service providers who tier their broadband connectivity offerings have a vested interest in making consumers believe that paying more money will result in an absolute increase in download and upload speeds experienced by the customer. Although there is some truth to this, there are a few caveats with which consumers should be aware before forking over more money and expecting their online experience to change dramatically.
Having a higher bandwidth limit assigned to you is like making the driveway coming up to your home larger. Technically, more people could now park their cars in your driveway, but that doesn’t change the width of the road leading up to your driveway. The Internet service providers do not own the Internet and cannot change the bandwidth limits imposed by server owners and other content providers.
Take this example. Suppose you often download movies from a content provider and you would like to download them faster, so you sign up for a faster Internet connection that gives you a 30 Mbps download rate.
Now suppose the content provider of the movies has set a limit of 1 Mbps per connection. Regardless of the fact that you have a theoretical download speed of 30 Mbps, you will only be able to download movies from the provider at 1 Mbps because that is the limit the provider has set for its servers.
The Internet service provider giving you the 30 Mbps bandwidth limit cannot force the content provider to allow you to download your desired content faster. This is a simple example that leaves out many details but from this example you can get an idea of how having a theoretical bandwidth limit does not guarantee that everything you download will be at the maximum rate.
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3 – Is Upgrading My Broadband Connectivity Worth the Extra Money?
This is a tough question because the answer depends on what you do on the Internet and how often you do it. The best way to get to the answer to this question is to ask yourself this question first: What is my broadband Internet connection not doing for me now that I would like it to do in terms of speed?
This question is the one you should turn to whenever you wonder whether you should upgrade any technology dealing with your computer. If you are noticing significant slowdown in your Internet connection lately, first make sure that your connection is working properly. Test you connection speed at SpeakEasy to check your current download and upload speeds. Once you have established that your connection is working, you can turn to deciding whether to upgrade.
If you still want a faster Internet connection, if may be time to consider a broadband connectivity upgrade. How much of an upgrade you should get depends largely on how much you are willing to spend.
Remember that it may be attractive to be able to brag that you have 50 Mbps broadband connectivity but as the example in the second question above illustrates, you are still limited by the bandwidth restrictions of the server owners.
As with most technology, do a quick cost to benefit analysis in your head and decide for yourself whether the extra cost is worth what you would be getting. Many of the Internet service providers offer a trial period where you sign up for more bandwidth at the higher price but have 30 or 60 days to decide whether it is for you or not. This way, you can try out the higher bandwidth and see if the extra cost is worth what you are experiencing in terms of higher download and upload speeds.
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Upgrading your broadband connection simply means that you pay a higher price for faster download and upload speeds. Keep in mind that whatever your theoretical speeds may be, you are still limited to the bandwidth allowed by the content providers on the Internet, be them providers of web pages, movies, music, or videos.
These providers do not allow unlimited bandwidth per connection. The result is a similar online experience to those customers opting for lower bandwidth connection packages from their Internet service providers. Your best bet may be to try out an upgraded broadband package and see if it is worth the extra expense.