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Your friends are over and you’re watching the latest season of your favourite show when the episode freezes. You press pause and play, over and over again, to no avail. Then, finally, the spinning circle of death (that indicates buffering problems) appears. Game over. Your friends start to complain. One of them asks, “What’s wrong with your Internet?” The guy you always hated adds, “How can you live like this?!”

If you can relate to this story, it might be time to investigate your Internet service plan. It might be that you don’t have the service you need. On the other hand, if you’ve never had a problem with your online connection, you might be paying for more than what you need.

Determining your online connectivity needs might seem like a straightforward calculation but you need to consider a number of factors before you call up your Internet Service Provider (ISP).

A Little Self Reflection

Before you jump the gun, ask yourself, are you happy with your current ISP? How often have you experienced problems with Internet speed or connectivity? If you’ve suffered a lot of outages or have never endured the pain of waiting for something to load, you might need to reconsider your Internet service plan. You don’t want to pay for a service that doesn’t meet your needs but you also don’t want to pay for power you’ll never use.

Try checking out your connection with www.fast.com. It will measure your download and upload speed. To give you an idea of a good speed, Netflix requires a download speed of at least 0.5Mbps to connect to its server, 3Mbps to stream standard content, 5-7Mbps for HD content, and 25Mbps for 4K Ultra HD content.

ISPs try to push consumers to purchase faster connectivity, but unless you’re gaming online or downloading/uploading large files on a consistent basis, you don’t need much more than 50Mbps.

Are You A Social Butterfly?

Are you on your phone because you’re texting or because you’re sharing videos and photos? Are you online just to send emails or because you’re communicating with other online gamers? If you don’t use a lot of bandwidth, you don’t need it. Bandwidth isn’t something your ISP will let you save up for a rainy day.

User and Devices

Aside from your own online activity, you may need to take into consideration other people in your household (or office). Determine how many users are relying on your connection on a regular basis. Is it just you surfing the web from time to time or are there four of you trying to stream Netflix all at the same time? If there are more of you engaging in higher bandwidth activities, you’ll need your ISP to provide you with more bandwidth.

Contacting Your ISP

Once you have a clear idea of your household (or office) usage, contact your ISP to discuss different service options. Since you’ve done your research, you’ll be able to talk about your needs without getting swayed by a sales pitch filled with numbers and jargon. In urban areas where fiber optic internet is widely available, your ISP will be able to provide speeds of approximately 500Mbps to upwards of 1G. And now you know, this is way more than you need to comfortably Netflix & Chill.

(If you’re in rural community, we suggest you investigate satellite connection options for a more reliable service.)

A Final Note of Caution

From time to time, you might notice a lag in your connection. Should that happen, hop back onto www.fast.com and investigate your Internet speed. Your ISP guarantees up to a certain bandwidth but sometimes they may fall short. A difference of 20-35% from your maximum promised bandwidth is considered acceptable by industry standards and you’ll have to settle from time to time. But anything greater than 35% and you can request an audit by your ISP. If your speed has been mistakenly toggled, you could get a credit from your ISP.

Pro Tip: We didn’t get a chance to talk about modems in this post but they’re what connects you to the Internet. For that reason, it’s important to make sure they’re up to date. Check with your ISP from time to time to ensure that your model is still supported. Big names like Rogers and Bell don’t advertise it, but you can sometimes upgrade your modem for free! That means you could get faster speed or better reliability – for free!

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