illustration of a question mark with speed test under it arrows pointing up and down next to speedometer do internet speed tests really work

Do Internet Speed Tests Really Work?

Summary: Speed tests are one way to make sure you’re getting the internet speed your internet service provider has promised. But do they work? The short answer is yes, but we demystify how they work — and how to get the most accurate results — and what all those numbers mean. 

 

If you’ve ever felt that your high-speed internet is running slowly, you’ve likely been told to try running a speed test. If you’ve ever wondered if they work, the short answer is yes.

The long answer is that there are a few different ways to get the most accurate results, and it’s important that you understand what the results mean. 

Should I Run a Speed Test? 

If you’re noticing a slow internet connection, it’s a good idea to run a speed test. If you aren’t sure what internet speed you’re paying for, check your latest bill from your internet service provider (ISP). 

Keep in mind that ISPs guarantee speeds up to the speed on your plan. It doesn’t mean that you’ll experience those speeds 100% of the time. If your results and the advertised speed are close, great! Your internet should be at 95% (or higher) of the speed you signed up for. If it’s frequently slower than that, and you’ve already tried troubleshooting on your own, it might be time to call your ISP. 

If you’re noticing a slower connection on just one computer or tablet, it might be a device-specific problem. Restarting it or installing a software update (if needed) could help. Connected to a VPN? That might be slowing your connection down, too. Try disconnecting or using another device to determine if the VPN is causing the slow speeds. 

If you’re still noticing a slow connection on everything, now’s the time to run an internet speed test

How Does a Speed Test Work?

Understanding how a speed test works will help you make sense of what to do with your results. First, the test finds a server close to you. The closer you are to the servers, the faster your connection will be because the data doesn’t have to travel as far. 

Once a server is located, the test sends a signal, and the server responds. The roundtrip speed is measured and called a ping test. 

Next, the speed test opens a few connections to that server to download a piece of data. It also measures how long it took to get the data, and how many resources were required. 

 

If you’re still noticing a slow connection on everything, now’s the time to run an internet speed test

 

After the download test, the process is reversed and data is uploaded from your computer to the server. These results indicate your upload speeds, or how quickly you can send data. 

It might seem like a lot, but this all happens in less than a minute. Each test functions in the same basic way, but different speed tests use different servers — which is why you may see different results depending on the platform. 

 

How Can I Get the Most Reliable Speed Test Results? 

There are a few ways you can run your internet speed test, and each one will highlight a different aspect of your service. 

Connect With An Ethernet Cord

If you want to see your speeds under the most ideal conditions, use a speed test offered by your internet service provider. Their tests are optimized for ideal conditions and use servers that are close to you and on their system. You can even connect your device to your router via an ethernet cable (remember those?) rather than using your WiFi connection. Because the ISP has nearby servers and you’re using ethernet instead of wireless internet, these results will show the best your service can do, but won’t be a good indicator of your actual speeds.  

Don’t have an ethernet cord anymore? Generally speaking, the closer you physically are to your router, the faster your speeds will be. 

Restart Your Router

Restarting your router before running a test will also help your internet to run faster. (This is also a good tip if slow speeds are a one-time problem.) Your router may have a built-in speed test, which will streamline the testing process. Again, your results from this type of test will likely demonstrate faster speeds than using a web-based test.  

Use a Browser Test

While you can use an ethernet cord or a test through your router, browser tests are most commonly used. You can search for an internet speed test or use ours. Some providers suggest closing apps that could be using bandwidth (in other words, stop streaming your favorite movie while you run the test) to see your optimal speed. However, if you typically have one or two streams going, or have multiple devices being used simultaneously, we recommend keeping those on. Using your internet as you typically would when running the test gives you a better indication of your day-to-day speed. If you’re running a test, optimal speed is less important to know anyway — you want to know what you’re truly experiencing. 

 

arrows pointing up and down next to speedometer do internet speed tests really work

 

Move Around Your Home

Feel like your internet speed fluctuates based on what room you’re in or the time of day? Run the test again. Moving to a different room can help identify a potential dead zone, where WiFi cannot effectively reach. Need WiFi in all corners of your home? There are a few solutions you can self-install. If you’re noticing significant changes in speed depending on what time it is, run your speed test at several points during the day and compare. 

If you’re a cable internet user, speed fluctuations throughout the day could be due to your shared connection — meaning that you and your neighbors all share one access point. Your internet speed will slow down as more people get connected throughout the day. Fiber internet, on the other hand, has a dedicated connection. That means it’s just your household using that access point, so your speeds aren’t affected even when you and the neighbors are streaming all three football games. 

What Do My Internet Speed Test Results Mean?

So you’ve run the test — now you have to make sense of the results. While tests vary slightly in the information they detail, this is generally what you’ll see. 

The test server shows the location that the speed test was run through. As we mentioned, the closer the server, the faster your internet. This goes for your everyday internet use, too. If you’re browsing sites that are hosted in other countries (like Vespa shops in Italy) you may notice pages take a few extra seconds to load compared to browsing shops in your area. 

Your download speed is how much data can be downloaded from the server per second. Activities like streaming videos, online video conferencing, and gaming all require large amounts of data to be received and function better with higher download speeds. This is displayed as the most prominent number on your internet plan. 

 

Using your internet as you typically would when running the test gives you a better indication of your day-to-day speed.

 

Upload speed is how fast data can be sent to the server. If you’re sending large email attachments, posting live videos on social media, or playing live tournament video games, you need fast upload speeds. 

Most internet plans have asymmetrical speeds, where download speeds are significantly faster than upload speeds. In the past, this didn’t matter — the majority of people downloaded far more data than they uploaded. Now, thanks to activities like video meetings and gaming, upload speeds are increasingly important. Frequently using the real-time aspects of your internet? We recommend getting fiber internet. Fiber not only has the fastest available download speeds, but the upload speeds will match — giving you symmetrical speeds. 

Your speed test results probably also include latency, or ping. This number describes how much time your device requires to send signals to a server and receive the response. This is basically a time delay or lag, so the lower the number is, the better. 

Finally, some speed tests include results for retransmissions. These happen when the network is congested, and data (also called packets) gets dropped. Any dropped packets have to be re-sent. This number should be very low, but unless your retransmission rate is above 2%, you shouldn’t notice any service disruptions. 

We hope this gives you a clearer picture of how a speed test works, why you want to do one, and what your results mean. You can choose what to do from here. If you’re looking for an internet service provider with high speeds, dedicated connections, and no internet data caps, EarthLink sounds like the fit for you. 

 


Illustration of fast internet services Ultimate Guide to Choosing an Internet Service

The Ultimate Guide to Choosing the Best Internet Service

Summary: From internet speed to connection type to internet service provider, there are many factors to consider when choosing a new home internet plan. Our complete guide walks you through how to decide what the best high-speed internet service is for you.

 

Between choosing an internet service provider (ISP), the type of internet, and the speed, you’ve got a lot of choices to make. On top of that, some ISPs try to sell you outsized internet packages or unnecessary bundles that just don’t fit what you need. It doesn’t have to be that complicated, so let’s look at how to choose the best internet plan for you. 

How Do Most People Use the Internet? 

First things first. How do you use the internet? Are you a casual surfer, mostly using it to check email and scroll social media? Or do you like to stream movies and play video games? The way you use the internet helps determine what speed you need — but so does the number of devices that are connected. 

Generally speaking, the more people or devices you have in your household, the more speed you’ll need. Higher speeds will help prevent a bottleneck when multiple people are logged on. But any devices you have connected can take up speed, too. Doorbell cameras, smart speakers, and smart thermostats also require data and speed — and take up space on your plan. 

So, it’s important to consider what you’re using your high-speed internet connection for, how many devices you have connected at a time, and how many people are using the internet simultaneously (or, if you’re a multitasker, how many devices you’re using at once). Does your current plan speed cover it, or are you noticing bottlenecks and connectivity issues? 

 

Does your current plan speed cover it, or are you noticing bottlenecks and connectivity issues? 

 

If you’re noticing consistent problems connecting, you can check what speed you should be getting by looking at your bill and compare that to the speed you’re actually getting by taking an internet speed test

Find Internet Providers in Your Area

Where you live will impact what internet service providers and internet speeds are available to you. Most urban and suburban areas will have higher speeds available and may have more choices when it comes to internet service providers. 

You can Google internet providers near me — or you can check here.

Once you’ve found nearby internet providers, you can start to compare plans, speeds, and pricing. Let’s break down some speed suggestions depending on your habits and popular service types.  

What Internet Speed Do You Need? 

Now that you’ve listed out what you use the internet for, it should be easier to decide on the speed you need. 

If you’ve got one or two devices, and are occasionally streaming or gaming but mostly casually surfing the web, 25 Mbps might be enough. 

If your household has five different devices going (including smart home technology), and you enjoy streaming entertainment, playing games online, and sharing photos, you may need 100 Mbps or more. Remember, the more devices you have, the more speed you’ll need.

If you’re working remotely, want to be able to rapidly stream, attend online classes, play multiplayer games, or videoconference (or you have up to 12 devices), you may need up to 500 Mbps. That will help multiple people in the house to be simultaneously participating in activities that require large amounts of data.

Clipboard with checklist how to choose the best internet for me title

 

The top tier of internet speed is 1,000 Mbps — or 1 Gig. At this speed, there’s practically no limit on the number of devices that can be connected, and many data-consuming activities can be taking place at once. 

What Type of Internet Connection Do You Need? 

The type of internet you have —  fiber, cable, or satellite — influences the speed you can achieve. While we’ve detailed the most common options here, it’s important to note that where you live also impacts the type of connection you can get. Curious about what high-speed internet is available near you? 

Fiber Internet

Fiber is currently the best high-speed internet service with speeds of 1,000 Mbps. It uses a dedicated line, so you won’t experience things like interference or slower speeds when your neighbors are also online. Fiber also has symmetrical upload and download speeds, meaning you can upload and download data quickly. Upload speeds are crucial when on video calls, sending large email attachments, or playing multiplayer online video games. If you’ve ever had coworkers tell you that you’ve frozen  — all while you can still see and hear them — you can probably thank slow upload speeds.

Fiber’s dedicated line also gives you the strongest available signal and most reliable service. But, because it requires new infrastructure, it’s not yet available everywhere. 

 

If you’ve ever had coworkers tell you that you’ve frozen  — all while you can still see and hear them — you can probably thank slow upload speeds.

Cable Internet 

While cable is more widely available, because it’s delivered through the same physical copper line as TV service, there can be speed problems with cable internet. Because internet and TV are delivered through the same line, it makes bundling easy. That said, bundling isn’t always necessary — and many people wind up with more than they need to get a short-term, discounted price. 

If you’re a cable internet user and you’re experiencing more frequent fluctuations in your internet speed, you’re not alone. Peak-usage windows (after 7:30 p.m.) are a thing of the past, and cable internet is beginning to look like a construction-filled highway — it’ll get you there, but it will take (much) longer than it should. 

Unlike fiber internet, cable’s speeds are asymmetrical, where upload speeds are often slower than download speeds. Most people download higher amounts of data than they upload, but as videoconferencing and online gaming become more and more common, upload speeds become more important. What does that mean for you? Fiber is the future

Satellite Internet 

Satellite is often a high-speed internet option for more rural areas that don’t have access to cable or fiber internet. It functions like satellite TV does, with a dish positioned on or near your home that sends and receives signals from your ISP via a satellite orbiting the Earth. You can typically get speeds up to 100 Mbps with satellite internet. 

While satellite may be a good option for rural areas who want higher speeds than dial-up or DSL internet provides, there can be disruptions and lag times. Because this service requires installation of the dish (and often a contract), the equipment costs are typically higher than either fiber or cable. 

Interested in learning about other types of internet? We’ve got you covered

What Do I Look For in an Internet Service Provider? 

Similar to the type of internet connection you can have, your ISP will also depend on where you’re located. Regardless, there are two important questions you should always ask. 

Do you have to bundle like my cable provider?

Like we mentioned earlier, a lot of ISPs promote unnecessary bundling (especially with cable internet), which gives you services you don’t need in return for a short-lived discount. If you just want to pay for what you actually need, we can help

Do you have a no data caps, no throttling guarantee? 

While the details are a bit more complex, internet data caps are essentially a restriction on how much data can be sent over your home internet. It’s not how much time you’re spending, but how much information you’re sending (such as streaming videos, sharing pictures, and using your smart home devices). If you go over your limit, you can be hit with a huge fee or be throttled down to lower speeds until the next billing cycle. Maybe you’ve never had a problem with your data cap, but you’re reaching your limit now that you’re working from home or gaming and streaming more. The bottom line is, you want to choose an ISP with no internet data caps

Now that you’ve gone through the steps of researching your own internet usage and what’s available near you, you’re ready to take the next step and find your best internet service. And, if you’ve decided you want high-speed, reliable internet with no home internet data caps and no unnecessary bundling, EarthLink is the right connection for you


Fiber vs Cable Which is Better computer screen on purple background

Fiber vs. Cable: Which One Is Better?

Summary: As the debate between cable vs. fiber high-speed internet continues, EarthLink explores both options to discover which is better — including which has the highest speed, which one offers cheap internet options, and what’s available near you.

You’ve likely heard of fiber optic internet, which has recently been touted as the best and fastest internet access. It’s also likely that you have had, or currently have, cable internet. If you’re wondering if you should upgrade, or what the real benefits are, we’re here to clear things up.

How Does Fiber Internet Work?

First, it’s important to understand how these two systems work. Fiber internet uses fiber-optic cables to transmit data via a dedicated line — making it faster and more reliable than standard copper cable. Fiber lines are made of thin strands of glass that carry light signals (the data you’re sending) over long distances more efficiently than copper cables do.

However, fiber is also newer and can be less available.

Cable internet uses the infrastructure in place from cable TV to transmit data. It’s offered by many cable and phone companies and available in many areas. Instead of using glass, data is transmitted over copper coaxial cables. The metal in these wires is what makes it more susceptible to interference from nearby high voltage electrical equipment, such as power lines, compared to fiber. These cables are often shared between several homes or even an entire neighborhood — which can lead to network congestion and lowered speed.

Fiber vs cable which one is better Fiber internet runs on a dedicated line

While some internet service providers may still offer cable plans at cheaper rates, fiber is becoming much more affordable and available.

Which Is Faster: Cable or Fiber Internet?

Both fiber and cable offer fast speeds — but fiber is literally as fast as the speed of light. Cable internet is more likely to run slower than the plan you signed up for because it’s a shared network between multiple households. So, the network speed you experience can be up to 25 percent slower during peak-use hours.

Fiber internet runs on a dedicated line, so many people can access it at the same time without affecting the individual speed. A dedicated line, plus the faster initial speed, make fiber ideal for high data-consuming activities like video conferencing, gaming, and streaming, even during peak hours.

Which Is More Reliable: Cable or Fiber Internet?

In general, fiber and cable internet are roughly equally reliable. However, because cable internet uses electricity, it’s impacted by factors that fiber is not. If your area experiences a high volume of storms, frequent electricity outages, or cable interruptions, your cable internet will not be as reliable. Fiber optic internet can function without electricity because the wires are made of glass and transmit light, protecting it from power voltages and fire risks. Fiber internet can still experience a service outage, but it’s far less likely than with cable internet.

What’s the Difference Between Cable and Fiber Internet?

In addition to reliability and speed, there are other differences between fiber internet and cable internet. One drawback to fiber internet is that it’s mainly available in metropolitan areas at this point — although serviceability is expanding.

Pros and Cons of Fiber Internet

Pros Cons
Highest speeds Can be more expensive
More secure Only available in certain areas
Less susceptible to decay/natural disasters Only available from certain providers

Cable internet revolutionized speeds and consistency for users when it came onto the market. Several decades later, it’s time for an upgrade. Enter high-speed, reliable fiber internet.

Pros and Cons of Cable Internet

Pros Cons
May be more available in some areas Slower download and upload speeds
Can be more affordable Typically includes data caps, which can limit use and throttle your internet speed
Slow during peak hours
May require you to bundle with unnecessary services

It is important to note that it’s possible to find a high-speed internet provider with no data caps, regardless of your plan type. But while you’re switching internet service providers, upgrade to fiber, too, and experience the highest speeds and steadiest connection available.

As if fiber internet needed any more strengths, it also offers added security. Because the data is transmitted by light, it’s much faster and the signals are harder to intercept. Trying to tap into fiber internet lines will likely require breaking the glass, so any potential breaches will be quickly discovered.

Fiber optic internet can function without electricity because the wires are made of glass and transmit light, protecting it from power voltages and fire risks. Fiber internet can still experience a service outage, but it’s far less likely than with cable internet.

If that added security isn’t enough, there are other ways to secure your online data. For example, you can install a VPN, regardless of your internet service provider or type. As far as speeds go, fiber not only offers higher download speeds, but the upload speed will be the same — known as “symmetrical speed”. For cable internet, your upload speed is typically only around 15 Mpbs. With fiber, if you have a 300 Mbps download speed plan, your upload speed will also be 300 Mpbs. This is particularly helpful if you’re often uploading large media files or are frequently on video calls.

Fiber Internet is Cheaper than Cable Internet

Perhaps just as importantly, fiber is actually a cheaper long-term alternative to cable internet. As the copper cable wires wear down and deteriorate, due to both distance and use, they need to be replaced — typically with fiber. With fiber internet, the transmitters and receivers that connect each end may need to be replaced and upgraded from time to time, but no new cable will have to be buried. As more individuals and corporations focus on sustainability, fiber wins there, too. And, because it’s more easily upgraded than its cable counterpart, fiber will save companies (and users) money in the long run.

It’s clear that fiber internet is the future of the internet. With added security, a reliable connection, and speeds as fast as light, you’ll never want to go back. Find the plans available near you.


How has COVID changed how we use the internet orange background

How COVID-19 Changed How We Use the Internet

Summary: It’s difficult to fully appreciate just how much the last year has changed how we use the internet. From school to work to connecting with loved ones, the demands on and access to high-speed internet were challenged. Here’s what we learned, and how we can make our home internet connections stronger. 

 

There are few aspects of life that COVID-19 didn’t change. Perhaps one of the most significant was the way we used the internet to connect to the outside world. While the internet has become more and more enmeshed in our lives over the years, this was the year we asked what more high-speed internet could do for us. 

In fact, adults 18 and older were spending more than 11 hours with media every day according to Nielsen. 

To more fully understand the rapid changes that took place over the last year, we took a deeper look at four main categories: school, work, leisure, and infrastructure. 

Making Home Into a Classroom  

Most classrooms shifted to remote learning in spring 2020, and many schools implemented a hybrid learning system thereafter. However, these shifts served to highlight the areas where access to the internet falls short.  

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, roughly 94 percent of students ages three to eighteen years had access to home internet in 2018. But having access doesn’t necessarily mean it’s reliable or even always available. For example, the FCC defines broadband internet as 25 Mbps download and 3 Mbps upload or higher. Households with multiple members working or schooling from home have found that the connection becomes bottlenecked at those speeds — especially when video meetings and classes have to happen at once. 

A survey conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau explained that “73% of households with children always had access to the internet for online learning and 17% had access most of the time.” For the remaining 10% that don’t have internet readily available, it can be nearly impossible to fully participate in video meetings or other activities happening in real time. If a student has class at 10 a.m., but the internet isn’t accessible then, they simply can’t attend remotely. 

 

While the internet has become more and more enmeshed in our lives over the years, this was the year we asked what more high-speed internet could do for us. 

 

The same year, 4.4 million households with students didn’t have reliable access to a computer and 3.7 million households were unable to connect to the internet. More than 50% of families had school-issued computers provided, but only a small portion were given a way to access the internet with them. And, as we have all been reminded, a working device is essentially useless for classroom participation without connectivity. 

Because people are participating in more data-heavy activities, service providers with no internet data caps have become increasingly important. Some internet providers and non-profits are working to help bridge these divides, but it’s thrown reliable high-speed internet access back into the headlines. Rural areas are typically the last to receive new infrastructure, but options are beginning to expand. For homes with more internet service options, fiber internet is preferable to cable, offering the highest speeds and most reliable connection

The Rise of Work From Home Culture

One of the most discussed aspects of COVID-19’s impacts is the way it affects where we do our work. According to a Stanford University Economics newsletter, 42 percent of U.S. employees were working remotely during the summer. That means there were still plenty of people unable to do their job from home. Those able to work remotely were likely to be more highly educated and higher earning. Employees unable to work from home — because of their job type or lack of access to an internet connection and equipment — were still working in-person or adapting to a more flexible work style. 

Still, with the sheer increase in the number of people working remotely, certain apps and sites were strained. The videoconferencing platform Zoom welcomed more new users in the first few months of 2020 alone than it did in all of 2019. 

What more did we ask of the internet during COVID how the internet has changed in 2021 COVID

Businesses that brought in employees — whether with a rotating schedule or a full staff with precautions — may have also realized their internet plan needs updating to adapt to changes in demand or use. For employers with employees able to WFH, security and access have become increasingly important. One way to bolster security for employees at home or in the office is to install a VPN (virtual private network). VPNs allow employees to remotely access shared files while also encrypting the data they’re sending. There are many VPN providers, but you want to make sure you’re going with a trusted, reputable company.

If you’re a cable internet user, you may have noticed that your internet seemed suddenly slower around 7:30 p.m. in the past. This is because cable uses a shared connection, meaning that as more people access the internet simultaneously, the connections can slow down. Now, there’s also peak internet use right around lunchtime. As internet activities continue to use higher amounts of data and require us to be connected more frequently, cable internet users will see their speed continue to be impacted. 

 

The bottom line is, the more live (even though they’re not in-person) activities you do, the more your internet speed matters. 

 

While work from home has offered more flexibility for employees, there are also signs of burnout, especially in workers who have to learn new technology as they go. Since it’s a trend that’s likely to stay — 36.2 million Americans are predicted to be working remotely by 2025, an 87 percent increase from before the pandemic — having reliable internet is a must

The Right Connection to Fun

Apart from the professional demands on the internet, we’re also using it more for leisure. As more people are staying at home, and traditional entertainment options like movie theaters remain closed or restricted, streaming has increased by 60 to 100 percent. Online gaming grew 12 percent

It’s easy to think of the internet’s leisure side as being more sedentary — binging Netflix on your couch, fossil hunting on Animal Crossing — but online fitness classes took off as well. According to a report by Fortune, nine in ten Americans who regularly exercise have said they’ll continue working out at home even when they feel comfortable returning to a gym. For those who enjoy classes where you can interact with other participants, high-speed internet is even more important. Live video conferencing uses more bandwidth than streaming a pre-recorded YouTube class, for example. The bottom line is, the more live (even though they’re not in-person) activities you do, the more your internet speed matters. 

Updating High-Speed Internet Infrastructure 

Amid concerns of the demands of COVID-19 breaking the internet, many companies have used this time to bolster existing infrastructure, and make way for new ones. Many of the challenges come from what's known as the last-mile services. That’s the final end of the connection that gets the internet into your home. This is also one of the biggest differences between your internet at home and at work. School or business internet typically have more reliable “enterprise-grade” services. Enterprise-grade internet has a higher capacity for the number of users, which is why you might experience bottlenecks at home more often than at work.  

Even if your internet is working just fine, you might have experienced throttling or added fees because you’ve hit your data caps. You’re not alone. Data usage has increased by 38 percent since COVID-19 lockdowns began. Data caps limit how much information you can send and receive over your internet connection. Activities such as video conferencing and classes require more data than scrolling through social media or checking your email. This prompted many internet service providers to temporarily remove their data caps over the summer. For the most part, though, those data caps are back in force.

As high data-consuming activities continue to have their place in our lives, even when we’re back at school and in the office, finding a service provider with no internet data caps will always be important. Whether you’re looking for the fastest high-speed internet available at home or the office, EarthLink can help.


What's the Best Type of Home Internet on blue background

What’s the Best Type of Home Internet?

 

Summary: With tons of options, what type of internet gives you the best internet service? We examine your choices — from fiber to satellite to wireless to cable — to determine which one takes the prize. 

 

Access to high-speed internet has become a necessity — in both our professional and personal lives. However, there are many different options when it comes to choosing the type of internet you have in your home, and each offers its own variety of advantages, disadvantages, and price points. 

Fiber Internet

Fiber is the current gold standard for high-speed internet. This type of internet service runs along a dedicated line (unlike cable) which offers higher speeds and less interference. The fibers are made of thin glass strands and conduct light instead of electricity. 

As an added bonus, fiber is actually a cheaper long-term alternative to cable internet. When copper cable wires wear down, thanks to distance and use, they need to be replaced. Most repairs to old cable lines are now being done with fiber. Fiber internet lines are far sturdier and are less prone to natural disasters or fires since they don’t conduct electricity. While the transmitters and receivers may need to be replaced and upgraded from time to time, no new cable will have to be buried. 

Fiber is the current gold standard for high-speed internet.

Fiber internet is a more sustainable, easily-upgraded way to access high-speed internet, meaning companies and users will save money in the long run. 

Pros Cons
Highest available speeds Not as widely available – YET!
Symmetrical upload and download speeds More expensive up front, but the price is decreasing               
Strong signal
Best option for high-data activities, such as gaming or streaming 
Most reliable service
Dedicated feed - no sharing with neighbors

 

Cable Internet

Cable internet is one of the more common types of high-speed internet. It offers faster speeds than its predecessors and is delivered via the same physical copper cable line as cable TV service, which is why bundles can be popular with cable ISPs. It also means cable can be slower since you share the lines with your neighbors. 

Pros Cons
Widely available  Neighborhoods share bandwidth, which can lead to slower speeds during peak times
Can handle data-intensive activities, such as gaming or streaming videos Download speeds are faster than upload speeds (also known as an asymmetrical connection), which can make it difficult to upload videos or large email attachments
Has a dedicated connection that is always on Cable lines are more prone to disruption and wear-and-tear

 

5G Internet

Rumors about 5G internet service and speeds abound, and while the tech is promising, the reality is yet to be seen. 5G functions like other cell networks, which use radio waves to send encoded data. 5G uses the same basic process as 4G, but the encoding is more efficient, allowing speeds that are about 30 percent higher. As with fiber internet, 5G will be available in large cities first before becoming more widely available. 

Pros Cons
High speed Slow rollout — 5G will likely take years to replace 4G 
Low lag times, also known as latency Potentially costly

 

Best Type of Home Internet Fiber

Satellite Internet

Satellite internet functions much the same way that satellite TV does — including occasional outages due to storms. A dish positioned on or near your home sends and receives signals from your internet service provider via a satellite that orbits Earth. Satellite can be a good option if you’re in a remote area where fiber isn’t yet available. 

Pros Cons
Available in many parts of the country Requires installation of the dish
Multiple providers, so pricing stays competitive   Often requires a multiyear contract with data caps and overage fees
Offers high-speed internet to rural areas  Higher lag times

 

Fixed Wireless Internet

Fixed wireless internet comes from the same wireless towers that allow you to use LTE on your cell phone to make calls, send texts, and browse the web. This type of internet is more common in rural areas where other types of internet access is limited, but cell towers are plentiful. 

Pros Cons
Alternative to dial-up internet in rural areas Requires a special antenna to be installed
Doesn’t require cables or wires to be connected Often requires a multiyear contract with data caps and overage fees

 

DSL Internet

Also commonly referred to as broadband internet, DSL stands for digital subscriber line. Its speeds land somewhere between dial-up and cable internet. DSL works well for the basic functions of the internet like emailing, browsing, and shopping, but may struggle if asked to do much more than that. 

Pros Cons
Available in many parts of the country Susceptible to disruption from weather
Inexpensive  Speeds depend on how geographically close you are to your internet service provider
Meets basic needs for browsing and emailing Slow speeds make it less reliable to use for video calls, stream videos, or play games

Dial-Up Internet

Yes, dial-up internet does still exist. A handful of internet service providers do still offer it — it runs on a telephone landline, so it’s one way to get the web to rural areas. But given the speed constraints, it's not an ideal solution if you need to stream or video call

Pros Cons
Inexpensive  Slow
Accessible in rural areas                 Some plans limit the number of hours that you can use the web in a month

 

There are many options when it comes to home internet service, but fiber offers the most for users. As rollout continues, expect fiber internet to become the most popular type of service. See if fiber internet is available near you, and find your best fit. 

 


What is a VPN on blue background with shield clear

What Is a VPN?

Summary: Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) are a cost-effective way to increase security from your devices. EarthLink tackles why secure, high-speed internet access is more important than ever, and how VPNs can be used for both personal and business internet security.

A virtual private network (VPN) allows you to have online privacy and anonymity from any device by creating a private network from a public internet connection. By encrypting your internet protocol (IP) address, your activity is protected from prying eyes. VPNs can change your location, protect your privacy, increase your security, and unblock websites. These features sound even more important as the trend towards working and educating from home continues to increase. But how does a VPN actually work?

When you connect to the internet, your internet service provider (ISP) assigns you an IP address — a unique number that identifies your device on the internet and can link your activity to you. A VPN app on your device establishes a secure connection with a virtual private network server so your ISP — or anyone else — can’t see your final destination. So, the websites you visit can’t see your original IP address, and can only see the one assigned to the VPN server that acts as a proxy. Ultimately, a VPN makes you more anonymous on the internet. This anonymity can prevent ad networks from tracking you, protect your data from government tracking, hide your identity when conducting sensitive searches (such as research done for work by journalists, lawyers, and others), and can prevent hacking attacks or data breaches.

 

Ultimately, a VPN makes you more anonymous on the internet.

The Role of High-Speed Internet in Our Lives

The COVID-19 pandemic also increased attention on the critical role of high-speed internet in our lives. But how fast does an internet connection need to be? That depends on your household. To video conference or play online games, 40-50 Mbps will usually suffice. For families who are heavier internet users or serious gamers, 100 Mbps or more may be necessary.

The typical American household has 11 internet-connected devices — this includes not only laptops and phones, but any smart home devices like thermostats, speakers, doorbell videos, gaming consoles, and more. Every device that is linked to WiFi is an opportunity for a hacker to get into your system. Using a personal VPN can help keep you safe while allowing you to use the devices that make your life easier.

How Do VPNs Work?

VPNs access a separate server for internet use through tunneling and encryption, making it more difficult for hackers to track online activities. Think of it as a secure tunnel between your device and the internet. Each data packet is encapsulated inside another data packet, making it harder for hackers to read. Data is encrypted inside the tunnel so that only the intended recipient can decrypt it. In addition to preventing security breaches by hackers, this also stops companies from gathering data on your browsing and purchasing behaviors.

Using a VPN can secure your online data, including anything from your bank account information to your social security number to your credit cards. You already know that a VPN creates a secure tunnel between you and your destination. This makes it much harder for a hacker to illegally access your information, but it keeps it private from legal information gathering as well. Your internet service provider can only see a few pieces of information when you’re using a VPN: the IP address of the VPN, the timestamp of when you connected, and the amount of data you’re sending and receiving (but not the data itself). This means they cannot access information like which sites you visit, how long you spend on any given site, your search history, or the specific files you download or upload, regardless of if the site you’re visiting is encrypted or unencrypted.

What is a VPN 68% of internet users use a VPN infographic

Why Use a VPN?

We’ve all seen reports of data breaches and identity theft in the news, and protecting your personal information online is one of the main reasons that VPNs are used. According to the Identity Theft Resource Center, there were 246 business breaches between January and July of 2019 alone. Using a VPN allows you to take back control of your personal data and helps prevent your identity from being stolen.

Added security is essential since 93% of data breaches could have been avoided with fundamental data security efforts, according to the Internet Society’s Online Trust Alliance.

Do VPNs Impact Your Internet Speed?

There are a few things to know before considering the use of a VPN for increasing your internet speed. It probably won’t make things faster, but using a VPN might increase your speed if your internet service provider is purposely slowing down your overall use or a specific site. This is also known as internet throttling, and it’s one way that ISPs try to avoid network congestion and regulate traffic. Because a virtual private network hides your IP address and destination, your internet service provider can’t necessarily track your previous activity or regulate where you’re going.

However, if you’re not already experiencing throttling, you may notice a decrease in speed when you use a VPN. This is because the VPN has to encrypt your connection, making it private, and then send that information through a secure server. It’s adding extra steps — what makes it secure and harder to hack — but that does mean extra time.

There are a few measures you can take to still use a VPN but get closer to your normal speed. First, make sure that you’re connecting to a VPN server that’s as geographically close to you as possible. Less distance for the data to travel means faster service. Next, go with a company that has a higher number of servers. One server has a capacity of users it can process, so the more servers available, the faster your connection is likely to be. Last, the strength of your encryption can impact your speed, since it takes longer to fully encrypt and decrypt your data. While stronger encryption will impact your speed more than a weak one, it offers much sturdier security — the whole reason you’re using a VPN in the first place.

Overall, using a VPN may impact the speed of your service. However, if you make sure you’re using a company that has many servers, and you’re connecting to one close to home, a potential sacrifice in speed will be returned in confidence that your data is more secure.

VPNs for Business

VPNs allow businesses to implement some security measures while allowing employees to connect to work while traveling, or while working remotely. It also creates a centralized place to store data, meaning that if a computer is lost or stolen, the data isn’t totally gone with it.

In addition to heightened security, here are some other common reasons consumers and businesses use VPN for their high-speed internet according to security.org:

  • Access secure network for job
  • Access shared files for job
  • Avoid cache and cookies
  • Access higher-quality entertainment content
  • Safely access public WiFi

Who Uses VPNs?

VPNs are increasing in popularity according to a 2020 study of consumer habits by Security.com — 68% of adult U.S. internet users use a free or paid Virtual Private Network VPN for personal or professional use. Further, 96% of those users said their VPN service was somewhat or very effective. According to the same report, men are more likely than women to use a VPN. The report also pointed out that VPN users ages 45-60 were more likely to use VPNs for professional use while ages 18-29 were more likely to use VPNs for personal use.

In fact, the market has recently grown by more than 160% year-over-year and is expected to hit $31 billion in 2021 and $35 billion in 2022.

Types of VPNs

VPNs can be broken down into two main categories: remote and site-to-site.

A remote-access VPN is really for personal use. It lets users connect to a private network from anywhere and encrypts all online activity and data. This type of VPN can bypass regional internet restrictions (these restrictions are why Netflix content differs from country to country) and access blocked sites (such as a school using web filters to prevent students from accessing YouTube, Facebook, and more). It also provides another layer of protection between the user and any hackers, making it more difficult for your information to get onto the dark web or be sold.

Site-to-site VPNs are more likely to be used by businesses. These connect offices in different locations, allowing employees to share files and access the company resources. A site-to-site VPN allows a company to securely connect its network with other offices (or remote workers) and share resources in one secure, centralized place. These VPNs essentially bridge networks and offices that are spread out geographically.

If you’re considering getting a VPN, make sure it’s from a reputable provider. Check that their service includes an option for a VPN for your mobile device. For instance, EarthLink Protect helps detect threats to your devices, online privacy, and alerts you if any personal information is found on the dark web while you surf, bank, socialize, and shop online.