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Internet Speed Test: The Fastest ISPs in the U.S. 2010
<b>We put Internet browsing speeds to the test to see which providers are the best at delivering the Web to you.</b>
Is your Web browsing as fast as it could be? Fifteen years after Microsoft introduced Internet Explorer to compete with Netscape Navigator, there are still browser wars going on, as Microsoft, Mozilla, Google, Apple, and others compete to create the software that loads Web pages the fastest. But the number one factor in page load speed (or any kind of download) isn’t your browser. It’s your Internet service provider (ISP). After all, a Web page can’t finish loading until all the bits arrive.
Interestingly, while cable and phone companies compete to provide fast connections, 80 percent of Americans have no idea how fast their connection is supposed to be, according to a recent FCC study. Still, nearly three quarters of the respondents (71 percent) said that they felt their connection speed is as fast as their ISP promises most, if not all, of the time.
The reality is that no one is experiencing speeds anywhere near to what their ISP claims to offer, at least not when it comes to Web surfing. This isn’t entirely the ISP’s fault. The ISP’s claimed throughput rates are for sustained downloads of an individual file. Web pages are typically made up of several files: the HTML code, graphics, Flash elements, and so forth. For each file, there’s latency, essentially the time it takes from when your computer requests the element and when the Web site’s server starts sending it to you. And then there are all the vagaries of the Internet as data from the Web site hops from router to router down to your computer. This is why, when ISPs advertise download speeds, they’re only referring to downloads directly from their own servers.
There are several good bandwidth testers on the market to test connection speed, including Speedtest.net and Broadband.gov’s new Consumer Broadband Test. But these tools typically test downloads of a single, very large file and provide a result that isn’t very applicable to Web browsing. So to answer the question, “Is your Web browsing as fast as it could be?” PCMag created SurfSpeed, a free Web surfing speedometer. On a scheduled basis or on demand, SurfSpeed downloads Web pages from 10 popular Web sites, including Google, Apple, eBay, and Yahoo.