What Is a Good Internet Speed?

Test your internet speed to see whether you're getting what you were promised

Internet connection speeds depend on several variables: your location, your service provider, and your connected equipment. The U.S. doesn't have equal internet speed across all states and providers, and the speed of cellular service is much lower than that of broadband providers.

Cellphone Internet Speeds

Average connection speed for mobile phones ranges from 14 Mbps to 34 Mbps depending on the state where you live, the age of your phone, and whether your equipment supports the 4G LTE standard. In 2018, Wyoming had the slowest average cellular internet speed and Washington, D.C., had the fastest. 

All major cellular providers show somewhat slower speeds in rural areas, no doubt because 80 percent of the population lives in urban areas. In most cases, the speed differential is less than 10 percent.

These are averages; some users experience faster speeds, and some users experience slower speeds.

Broadband Wi-Fi Speeds 

Modern broadband cable, fiber, and DSL networks continue to increase their internet speeds. In 2018, XFINITY from Comcast promised speeds up to 2G (2,000 Mbps), while AT&T offered 1G (1,000 Mbps) speeds to subscribers. These are the fastest in the nation. Typically, unless you are with one of these services, you can expect to see download speeds in the 50 Mbps to 150 Mbps range, with upload speeds much slower.

It is likely that your broadband provider offers more than one speed "package." If you want the fastest speed, you may have to pay more for it.

You can test your internet connection speed in several ways.

Ookla Android speed test
Ookla Android speed test. screenshot

Ookla is a respected service that has offered internet speed testing services for years. The Ookla Speedtest mobile app performs upload and download speed tests with controlled data over a 30-second interval. It then provides you with graphical results to show the speeds your mobile device is achieving on 4G, LTE, EDGE, 3G, and EVDO networks.

Some ISPs offer to be the target Ookla server for you, so their results may be skewed to inflate their performance numbers. After your first speed test, go into the Ookla SpeedTest settings and choose an independent server outside of your ISP's control when you run your second and third Android speed test. More »

Ookla speed test for iPhone/iOS
Ookla speed test for iPhone/iOS. screenshot

In the same fashion as the Android app, Ookla Speedtest app for Apple iOS devices connects to a server from your iPhone to send and receive data. The speed test results show in stylish graphs, and you can choose to save your results online so you can share it with friends or your ISP.

When you use the Ookla Speedtest app on your Apple mobile device, make sure to run it multiple times. After the first test, which uses the Ookla settings to choose a target server that is not owned by your ISP, you are more likely to get unbiased results from a third-party server. More »

Bandwidthplace.com speed test
Bandwidthplace.com speed test. screenshot

BandwidthPlace Speed Internet Speed Test is a reliable free internet speed test for residents of the U.S., Canada, and the UK. The convenience of Bandwidth Place is that you need not install anything. You run the speed test in your Safari, Chrome, or IE browser.

Bandwidth Place has a limited number of servers around the world, but most of its servers are in the U.S. If you are far away from a Bandwidth Place server, your internet speed will appear to be slow. More »

DSLReports speed test
DSLReports speed test. screenshot

As an alternative to Ookla and Bandwidthplace, the tools at DSLReports offer some interesting additional features. You can choose to test your internet bandwidth speed when it is encrypted (scrambled to prevent eavesdropping) or unencrypted. It also tests your speed against multiple servers simultaneously. More »

ZDNet speed test
ZDNet speed test. screenshot

The ZDNet Broadband Speed Test measures the speed between your computer and a distributed network of servers, not the speed between the computer and your ISP. This fast test also offers international statistics on how other countries are faring for internet speeds. More »

Speedof.Me speed test
Speedof.Me speed test. screenshot

Some network analysts claim that internet speed tests based on HTML5 technology are the most accurate mimic of how internet traffic flows. The HTML 5 tool at Speedof.me is one good option for testing your desktop or cellphone speed. This browser-based tool is convenient because it requires no install.

You don't get to choose the servers with SpeedOf.me, but you do get to pick the kind of data file you want to upload and download for the test. More »

Causes of Internet Sluggishness

Your internet speed is likely to fall short of the theoretical maximum on your ISP account because many variables come into play:

  • Online traffic and congestion: If you are sharing a connection with other users, and if those users are heavy gamers or downloaders, you'll experience a slowdown.
  • Your location and distance from the server: Particularly for those of you in rural settings, the more distance the signal travels, the more your data hits bottlenecks across the many hops to reach your device.
  • Hardware: Hundreds of pieces of hardware connect you to the web, including your network connector, your router and model, many servers, and many cables. Also, a wireless connection has to compete with other signals in the air.
  • Time of day: Like the roads during rush hour, the internet has peak times for traffic that contribute to speeds slowing down.
  • Selective throttling: Some ISP's analyze data, and purposely slow down specific types of data. For example, many ISP's purposely slow down movie downloads or dial down all your speeds if you consume more than your monthly allotment of data.
  • Software running on your system: You may unwittingly have malware or a bandwidth-intensive application running that robs your internet speed.
  • The other people in your house or building: When your teenage daughter is streaming music in the next room, or your building neighbor is downloading 20GB of movies, you're likely to experience sluggishness connection speeds.

What to Do If Your Internet Speed Isn't Good

If the speed you see using one of the internet speed tests is within 20 to 35 percent of the service's promised speed, you may not have much recourse. If your ISP promises you 100 Mbps, and you can show them that you get 70 Mbps, the customer service people will probably tell you politely that's you need to live with it.

On the other hand, if you paid for a 150 Mbps connection, and you are getting 44 Mbps, then you should contact your service provider to audit your connection. If they mistakenly toggled you at a slower speed, the provider should give you what you paid for or credit you back fees.