Need For Speed: How Much Broadbandband Speed Do Americans Need?

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Americans spend more time on the internet now more than ever before. Gaming systems allow you to play with people from all around the world. Remote learning has become commonplace. Working from home has also become extremely common when their employers allow them. Many people have even started working for themselves at home, working on the computer for hours at a time. We cannot forget about mobile devices. Everyone that you see has a cell phone or tablet that they carry around with them. Everywhere that they go, the devices hook up to wireless internet servers to save on their mobile data.

Broadband, bandwidth and internet speed are three different aspects of your service that are commonly confused. They are connected to each other, but they are quite different concepts. They are all measured in megabits per second (Mbps), with some of the higher plans having to be measured in gigabytes per second (Gbps).

Internet speed is defined as the speed at which information is transferred. When connected to the internet devices must be able to talk to each other. This means that information is sent back and forth from your device to the servers that you are using at the time. 


Bandwidth is defined as the overall capacity of your service. This means that if one person is using the connection, they will have fast speeds because they will have the full amount of capacity that the service offers. If two people are on devices then you will have to split the capacities, which will make both of you have slower speeds. 

Broadband is a term commonly used today because of the larger variety of frequencies that are available. According to the Federal Communications Commission, for a service to be considered broadband it must give a minimum of 25Mbps of download speed and 3 Mbps of upload speed. 

The Federal Trade Commission states that a speed over 25Mbps is an advanced service. They also classify internet use throughout our daily lives into three easy-to-understand sections. We will cover the needs of Americans in a minute, but first, it is important to understand the three speeds and the three levels of usage.

  • Basic Service-This internet speed is 3 to 8 Mbps.
  • Medium Service-This plan would give you 12 to 25 Mbps.
  • Advanced Service-This internet service would give you over 25Mbps.

There are also three levels of usage on any of the broadband plans that are available.

  • Light Use-This level covers all your basic needs. Examples would be reading or writing emails, watching a basic video, and browsing on the internet. 
  • Moderate Use-This level is where most Americans fall. It covers all the basic functions listed above, plus one higher demand task. Examples would be the same as above plus a video conference, or gaming, or streaming a high-definition video. 
  • High Use-If you have more than one high demand user in the household, you would want this speed. It covers all the basic uses as well as more than one high demand task at the same time. Examples would be one person involved with online classes while another is playing an intense video game.

Now we have to break down the number of users that the household has compared to the two distinct aspects discussed above.

  1. One user on one device-For light or moderate use you would only need a basic service. For high use you would be better off with a medium service plan.
  2. Two users or two devices-If you like to use more than one device at a time, or if you have more than one internet user on at a time, you will need to make some adjustments. For light use you can still get away with a basic service plan. Moderate use would require a medium service plan and high use would require at least a medium plan, but you would have better results with an advanced plan.
  3. Three users or three devices-The more devices, or users, that you have on the internet at one time, the higher the broadband speed that you will need. With three users, or devices, you will need a medium service plan for light and moderate use, and an advanced plan for high use.
  4. Four users or four devices-Four or more devices or users will require you to have a medium plan for light use, and an advanced plan for moderate and high use.

Today’s world of technology and the dependence on the internet makes it hard for Americans to go with low-end service providers. An advanced service will suit any need that the user may have and will allow others to hook up to your Wi-Fi when needed. The breakdown above shows what each user can get away with, but it does not consider the constant on and off activity of most homes when it comes to the internet. Advanced service with high broadband speeds is what the majority needs and wants.


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