A Guide to Understanding Bandwidth and Slow Internet Speeds

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slow internet speeds

When people complain about slow internet speeds, bandwidth is usually the source of blame. However, there are two different reasons why your internet may be lagging, even if you’ve never switched services or encountered the problem before.

Slow Internet Speeds: Bandwidth

Assuming all of your equipment is working correctly, how can bandwidth affect your internet and create slow internet speeds? Bandwidth is what most providers will tell you measures speed, and the higher, the better. So what is bandwidth, exactly?

  • Bandwidth measures the speed of your downloads and uploads in a measurement called Megabits per second or Mbps. The higher the Mbps, the faster the internet is traveling to your computer.
  • If you think about it in terms of water flowing through a pipe, bandwidth is how big the pipe is and how much water it can send at a time. The more bandwidth you have, the more data you can send and receive quickly.
  • High bandwidth means your internet connects to web pages immediately, and the less wait time until your page starts to load.

Slow Internet Speeds: Latency

Latency is a term used less often, although just as important to internet speed and your experience. So what is latency, and how can it affect slow internet speeds?

  • Latency is the amount of time it takes for your page to load, and it’s measured in milliseconds or ms.
  • In your “water pipe,” latency is the speed the water flows through the pipe. If more devices are online, it’s like turning on multiple faucets in your home. You may lose water pressure or “speed”.
  • It refers to the amount of time between when you click on a page and the time it takes for you to see it.

Why Are Bandwidth and Latency Important for Slow Internet Speeds?

You were sold on the high bandwidth, but why does latency matter? Even if your bandwidth is the best it could be, having a slow latency can significantly affect your internet speed. After all, why does it matter to have the biggest pipe and the most water if it’s flowing through like sludge?

With high bandwidth and high (slow) latency, your internet will connect to your page immediately, but the page may take a very long time to load each picture, which results in you seeing slow internet speeds. 

With low (fast) latency and low bandwidth, your internet will take a while to find the connection, but once it does, the page will load almost immediately. Without both, each scenario can be a frustrating experience.

What are the best connections for latency?

Wired connections such as DSL, Cable and Fiber provide the best connections for latency. 

What is the worst for latency?

Satellite is among the worst for latency.