Discussing Speed

There are many factors that impact the speed of your cable modem. The configuration of your computer, the shared nature of the Internet itself, and the performance of distant end devices (content servers) all affect the speed you see from page to page, website to website. The network of countless circuits, switches, routers and servers that power the Internet are similar to an urban highway system. Sometimes, everything is flowing smoothly at the posted speed limit. Other times, a single breakdown can have an impact on routes that are seemingly far removed from the problem area. Likewise, depending on the time of day, the website you visit, and just general Internet congestion, the speed of your service may be less than blazing fast.

Your Internet access with Irvine Online is made up of two primary components. First, there is the Irvine Online network that moves traffic from your cable modem to the Internet and second, the Internet itself. Because Irvine Online has no control over the Internet, it is impossible for Irvine Online, or any other Internet service provider, to guarantee that customers will always see Internet pages download quickly. If you access a site that is powered by a server that is only transmitting data at 100 kilobits per second, it does not matter what bandwidth you have with your Irvine Online connection. Your highest potential rate can only be 100 kilobits per second. It is fairly easy to identify which websites are built to serve data at high speeds. These sites usually include those that are providing streaming audio and video or involve frequent content downloads. However, even sites like these will become congested during a major event or crisis, based on the traffic attempting to access these sites. All these factors affect the speed you are seeing but, unfortunately, they are beyond Irvine Online's control.

Understanding Downloads

File sizes are measured in bytes while transfer speeds are measured in bits. With a dialup connection, you may have had a 28.8 kilobits per second (Kbps) modem that received files that were 1.0 megabytes (MB)in size. The math works as follows:

  • There are 8 bits in 1 byte. Therefore, 8,000 kilobits equals 1,000 kilobytes. 1,000 kilobytes equals 1 megabyte. This is clearly a source of confusion for many consumers as download speeds are reported in both bytes and bits, while many service providers state their optimum speeds in megabytes. For example, a speed test on bandwidthplace.com might show a download speed of 545,832.6 bits per second. This represents an equivalent speed of 545.8 kilobits per second. At this speed, it would take a 1-megabyte file about 15.4 seconds to download, factoring in the necessary control information described in more detail below.
  • Another variable affecting speed is the actual size of the file. When a file is retrieved from the Internet, the actual download includes more than just the file itself. Control header information that among other things, helps correct errors, can increase the amount of data that needs to be downloaded. For example, downloading a 5MB file can actually transfer as much as 6MB of data or more. If the user divides the stated file size by the download speed, the actual download speed may be significantly understated
  • Also, your computer continually negotiates a transfer rate with the remote server from which you’re downloading. For example, if your computer is an older model or is busy processing other things (running a game, playing a DVD, listening to music, saving a large Word document with images), it will have fewer resources available to process incoming data from your download, therefore causing a delay in the download.