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by Bob Ellis

Q. My Internet Service Provider says my Internet connection speeds are “up to 3 megabits per second”. What does this mean?

A. It means whatever your ISP says it means as described in the Terms of Service. Usually it means that the ISP will use their “best effort” to achieve that speed. Don't forget that this is the download speed; upload speeds are usually much slower.

It is very difficult for the average Internet user to accurately determine their connection speed. There are several free websites offering to test your connection speed. My favorite one is the Las Vegas Data Transfer Test because it is easy to use and takes a short time to deliver the results. Go to their website.

There are many others. A thorough test would include using several other sites, some of which have a geographical orientation. I did this initially and settled on just using the Las Vegas test. For example, my DSL connection (rated at 1.5 Mbits/sec) routinely gives a download speed of 1.31 Mbits/sec and an upload speed of about 0.8 Mbits/sec. As an interesting note, sometimes my upload speed drops considerably and I have to power cycle my DSL modem to get the rated speed.
Please remember that some Internet connections, such as cable TV, are via a shared resource and the speed and latency (time to start a transmission) may vary considerably.

Published: Courier 4/17/11 - Page 5C