Paying Extra for Internet Speeds: Is It worth It?

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By: Andrea Eldridge, CEO and co-founder of Nerds On Call, an on-site computer and laptop repair service company.

Everybody enjoys a good cliff-hanger at the end of a TV series. Since Netflix has become so widely used, people are holding onto the edges of their seats for reasons other than the shows: buffering. If your internet speeds are holding you back from going on a three day media binge, it may be time to see if you are really getting what you pay for.

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The first step to check your internet speeds is to run a speed test. Nerds on Call recommends using speedtest.net, which can check internet speeds around your neighborhood. It is also important to protect your wireless network with a password so that unwelcome guests do not take up your precious bandwidth and decrease the internet speeds that you pay for.

Most Internet Service Providers offer packages with varying speeds that begin around 5mbps. When shopping for internet service, it is important to read the fine print. Most companies advertise speeds UP TO a certain number, but in reality the speeds you are receiving are much lower. In most cases, there are multiple devices on one wireless network which forces a portion of the bandwidth to be allocated to each device, slowing down speeds.

Internet Service Providers can only guarantee a certain speed; this is usually mentioned in the fine print of an advertised deal. If you are seeing an advertisement for 50mbps, chances are the speeds will never actually reach 50mbps, and you will average less than half that speed when surfing the web on a network that has multiple devices connected to it. Sadly, even if you call and complain about your speeds, chances are they will only up your speed to the advertised rate for a short amount of time before they again decrease the average internet speeds in your home.

If you are unhappy with your internet speeds and the level of service from your internet provider, consider switching providers, and remember to always read the fine print to make sure you are getting the guaranteed internet speeds you need. Do not be afraid to shop around, as smaller internet providers sometimes offer a higher level of customer service in comparison to the large conglomerates.

In short, the answer is: No, it is not worth paying more for faster internet speeds, because chances are you are not actually getting faster speeds. For More Nerd tips, tricks, and the latest in tech culture, be sure to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter!

About The Author: Andrea Andrea Eldridge is CEO and co-founder of Nerds On Call, a computer repair company that specializes in on-site and online service for homes and businesses. Andrea is the writer of a weekly column, Nerd Chick Adventures in The Record Searchlight. She prepares TV segments for and appears regularly on CBS, CW and FOX on shows such as Good Day Sacramento, More Good Day Portland, and CBS 13 News, offering viewers technology and lifestyle tips. See Andrea in action at callnerds.com/andrea/.

Video Transcript

Emily: But first, do you feel like your computer is just always buffering? Are you in the slow lane when it comes to internet service?

Ryan: Frustrating, right? So, what do you do? Your abc10 Consumer Champion, Marc Thompson, well, he takes a look.

Marc: Well we’ve all heard the saying, “You get what you pay for.” Well, not so fast, and that’s just it when you’re talking about internet speeds, not so fast. You’re not getting what you pay for, and when your internet is slow, it can be frustrating.

The ads are everywhere, the promise of lightning internet speed. But if you feel like you’re in the slow boat, you’re not alone, and it’s not just one provider. Just look at some of the responses we got when we put the question out on Facebook. Dana posts, “AT&T is ridiculously slow!” Karen responded, “I have Consolidated Communications. I paid to upgrade and it seems to have gotten worse. Can’t stream.” And of course, we didn’t forget about Comcast. Just ask Nicole Berryman from Sacramento.

Nicole: I go through Comcast, and I pay for 50 megabytes per second. And right now, I get about 18 to 20, so I’m getting less than half. And so when you’re streaming movies or playing games, and you have three or four devices on the network, it bogs it down, and it’s really slow.

Marc: So what to do? I think I’m going to have to call a nerd in on this one.

Ryan: Hey, I’m Ryan from Nerds on Call.

Marc: Wow, that was fast.

Ryan: Yeah, faster than some of those internet speeds.

Marc: And Nerds on Call says, the first step is to run a test.

Ryan: My favorite place to go to, a website called speedtest.net.

Marc: It’s free and can test not just your internet speed, but the speeds in your neighborhood. Next, check your internal network. Protect it with a password so the guy down the street doesn’t move in on your bandwidth. Make sure your router is in a good spot and in good working order, it may need to be replaced. And keep track of who’s using how much in your own house.

Ryan: You want to find out if maybe your kids, your wife, or somebody else is using too much bandwidth in their, what they call, throttle. They throttle your network and give you less speed.

Marc: And Ryan says, some providers are notorious for overselling deals to new customers, so things bog down during peak usage. And for that, you should call and complain. But know this phrase first, “up to.” It’s often in the fine print. You’re sold up to a certain amount of speed, but it’s not likely you’ll get it all.

Ryan: That’s because they only guarantee a certain speed, and that’s what you want to look at in the fine print. It’s what speed are they guaranteeing, not what speed are they saying you might get.

Marc: And sometimes, even if your provider does agree to help, the fix doesn’t always stick.

Nicole: They’re like, “Oh, okay. Looks like we’re going to send somebody out there to work on it,” or “Oh, let us troubleshoot this for a while, and we’ll get back to you.” And then, for a couple of days, it goes back up to what it’s supposed to be, but then it drops right back down.

Marc: Even when you pay more for a boost.

Ryan: They’ll sell you services like “Blast,” for example, where you think, “Oh great! I’m going to get all these great speeds.” And the problem is you’re also signing away the amount of data you’re allowed to get. And so once you hit a certain cap, even if you’ve got Blast, they’ll slow your speed down.

Marc: And if you keep getting the runaround, it may be time to cut them loose and switch providers. So what it comes down to at the bottom line is, like most things, read the fine print and don’t be afraid to shop around. I’m your Consumer Champion, Marc Thompson. Back to you.

Emily: Thank you, Marc. And he shared a little secret with me that I’m going to share with you now. He says another great resource is Netflix. There you can compare the speeds of the internet providers in your area and see which one is performing the best.

Now, Comcast did get back to us and offered several troubleshooting solutions that can actually help out you customers, and we posted all that info on abc10.com.