Don’t Upgrade Your Internet Speed

Your ISP’s Marketing Department Thinks You’re an Idiot

ISPs are liars. You don’t need “blazing fast” Internet speed. Consider the following product tier descriptions from Cox Communications

A pricing list for Cox's Internet options

The cheapest option advertises that it is “ideal for 3 to 5 devices that occasionally receive emails…” and offers download speeds “up to 30 Mbps.” Following that is their “most popular” tier, $20 a month more expensive and providing up to 100 Mbps of speed. This is for “5 to 7 devices” and “power web users and gamers.” These are lies. I “occasionally” received emails in the late 90’s with Internet speeds of 56 Kbps—that’s 0.056 Mbps, or 535 times slower than Cox’s slowest offered speed. A friend of mine in the early aughts played Diablo II online with Internet speeds no faster than 28 Kbps. Even with the obesity of the Internet these days, you’re fine with 30 Mbps.

Even more offensive is the idea that you might need “Cox Internet Ultimate” in order to “stream videos.” This third tier offers download speeds “up to 300 Mbps.” It’s not clear whether “streaming videos” is intended to mean “watching Netflix” or “livestreaming your vlog” (in which case upload speeds become much more important), but assuming the average reader sees this and thinks, “Oh, I want to watch Netflix, so I must need this,” take a look at Netflix’s recommended speeds

0.5 Megabits per second – Required broadband connection speed

1.5 Megabits per second – Recommended broadband connection speed

3.0 Megabits per second – Recommended for SD quality

5.0 Megabits per second – Recommended for HD quality

25 Megabits per second – Recommended for Ultra HD quality

Internet Connection Speed Recommendations, Netflix, retrieved May 11, 2019

Nobody needs 14x Netflix’s highest recommended speed to watch reruns of Friends. And, if you’re concerned about downloads in general, the difference between 30Mbps and 300Mbps in downloading the update to your latest game might only mean taking a break to call your mom.

Faster speeds are nicer, sure. But it’s not always needed, and it’s always easier to upgrade later than it is to downgrade. Start on the small end and save yourself $40 a month.

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