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Is your broadband connection really as fast as promised?

This is part 2 in my Optimizing Broadband|Windows|Firefox series and deals with broadband statistics and how to measure your broadband speed. Some useful links and surprises guaranteed.[If you just landed here: this is part of a series. Click here for a table of contents]

You might have signed up for the fastest connection your ISP has to offer. But how fast really is your connection? I came across some shocking statistics from online speed tests in an e-zine article, according to which broadband speed is frequently much lower than advertised:

when bandwidth is advertised at up to 8MB, for example, the actual speed received can be as low as 2.2MB, regardless of your distance from an exchange. One user who lived close to an exchange received just 9 Mbps of the advertised 16 Mbps. The lowest speed recorded in these speed tests was a meagre 0.09Mbps, which isn't much faster than dial-up.

My thoughts invariably wander to my dial-up days when I would wait for what seemed an infinity, waiting for to load. Ouch. So do you get a faster connection with a higher price tag? Not necessarily. Sometimes cheaper deals fare better than more expensive ones, so in case you're suffering from sluggish speeds, you might want to opt for a different service provider. To make your life easier, here's a list of the fastest broadband services worldwide (Canada has the fastest ISP); however, a different study on advertised speeds brings up quite different finds (Japan has the fastest broadband). Here's a nice portal aimed at helping First Nations people get broadband access, particularly in rural areas.

Regardless of dial-up or broadband, how do you find out your true internet speed? There are many sites that test your internet connection for speed (the process generally involves passing data 19 times). is the one that pops out in a Google search, and is no doubt the most referenced. The one that's my favorite is, however, hard to dig up online: it's the Intel broadband connection test.

Reasons I prefer the Intel test over SpeedTest: it measures speed in Mbps, whereas the latter delivers results in Kbps. So if you're using broadband, Mbps is the way to go. Plus, Intel's test is just hit and run: it's a one-click process (you don't even have to point out the server location as in SpeedTest), and (most importantly) you can compare how fast your connection is to other kinds of connections. Note: both tests require Adobe Flash Player.

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