Is Your High Speed Internet Connection Fast By Today's Standards?

"High speed" was first used in the 1990s to describe an internet connection that exceeded dial-up speeds. Since then, technology has advanced rapidly, but the definition of high speed has remained unchanged. Even though your internet service provider (ISP) may advertise high speed internet, is your connection actually high speed by today's standards?

A Definition of High Speed

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC), which oversees ISPs defines high speed internet as any connection that provides speeds faster than dial-up speeds. The term was beneficial back in the 1990s, when people and businesses were transitioning from dial-up internet to broadband connections, or high speed internet.

In the past two decades, however, connections have become much faster than those through phone lines. Dial-up connections used 14k, 28k, or 56k modems, the "k" referring to kilobytes. For instance, a 56k modem, the fastest phone connection available, transmits at speeds of 56 kilobytes per second (Kbps), or 56,000 bytes per second. In contrast, today's slowest broadband connections, according to the FCC, start at 200 kbps. Some providers offer speeds of 100 megabytes per second (Mbps), which is 100,000,000 bytes each second. 

Essentially, almost any residential internet connection today qualifies as high speed internet, according to the government's definition, because the definition has not changed since the days of dial-up.

Advancing Technology

Technology, however, has made dramatic improvements over the past two decades. Thanks to better hardware, residential ISPs are able to provide connections upwards of 30 Mbps, or more, at affordable rates. Software has taken advantage of these increased speeds, and people are now accustomed to playing games and watching videos that were unfathomable in the dial-up era.

A Truly Fast Internet Connection

Is your internet connection able to take advantage of the faster speeds, though?  Because high speed can be used to describe almost any residential connection, even a high speed connection may not be fast enough for much of what is available online now. Here are some signs that your high speed connection is not actually fast by today's standards:

  • videos that you stream pause to buffer in the middle of playing
  • it takes more than a couple of seconds to load web pages
  • images fail to download properly

Look for a Fast Connection

If you suspect that your connection is not as fast as it might be, even though it is advertised as high speed, consider looking into ISPs in your area. There are generally two types of high speed internet: DSL and cable.

DSL connections are not as fast as cable internet connections, although they may be the only option available in some areas. DSL speeds are usually between 128 Kbps, or just over double the speed of a 56K modem, to 24 Mbps. The other disadvantage with DSL is that the speeds may vary with weather, since the connection is run through a satellite. Clouds often interfere with this connection.

Cable internet bundles, on the other hand, typically start out at a few Mbps and can reach 100 Mbps or more, although those speeds are often only useful for businesses. Furthermore, weather does not interfere with cable high speed internet, since the connection runs through a fiber optic cable.

Verify Your New Fast Speed

Once you shop around the internet service providers in your area and settle on a connection that is truly fast, you should verify that you are seeing the speeds promised by your ISP. A site like will tell you your actual speeds. After you are sure your receiving the speeds you signed up for, at a site like,  it is time to have fun surfing the internet through your new, fast connection.