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   Comparing Broadband Speeds       Speed Myths   

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The case of the missing bandwidth - broadband speed tests

“I have a 128Kbps DSL connection but my browser’s download manager tells me I’m only getting 15KB per second!”

A common complaint across all internet connection types is the seemingly misleading assertion of data speeds. What most people don’t know is that Kbps (kilobits per second) is different from KBps (kilobytes per second). Based on ‘digital math’ there are 8 bits in 1 byte; so that 128-kilobit per second line translates to a potential 16-kilobytes per second speed.

You can blame it all on marketing, as consumers normally tend to go for higher numbers on the box of most computer equipment. Which would you rather purchase: A 128-Kbps or a 16KBps DSL internet connection? It figures.

Another factor affecting almost all broadband connections is the distance of the receiving computer from the nearest telephone exchange or carrier station. Data throughput is lost for every meter that the line extends from such stations. Although the dropped packets from such lines are inconsequential in a highly urbanized area with numerous access points, a user in the suburbs may find all that lost data to be quite substantial the further the computer gets from the nearest data provider.

Internet dinosaur

On an analog 56Kbps modem, computer speed is not that important; a 233 MHz Pentium with 32MB of memory can easily display web pages, the bottleneck is the data connection between the computer and the web. It does, however, become a factor for higher-speed connections where the amount of data going to your desktop may be more than it can properly handle.

Displaying graphics-heavy pages is definitely going to be slower on an older computer than on a new one using the same type of broadband connection. Most broadband users now take advantage of video conferencing utilizing a web camera and appropriate software, something that requires a relatively fast processor, ample memory, video acceleration hardware, and updated system software.

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