The best of your broadband

Three years ago, if I asked in a networking class how many students still had dial-up roughly a third of the class would raise their hand. Today, the number has dwindled to one or two, which may be due to broadband service being more prevalent with lower costs.

As a broadband subscriber I want two things: the always-on dedicated line and performance meeting the advertised rates. My broadband provider, Charter, offers free security software which I choose not to use but other subscribers do and they are generally happy with it. How do I know if I'm getting what I'm paying for? By that I mean mostly the download rate?

We first looked at a company called Ookla in June 2008, who offers Web-based testing of a broadband connection. The test is freely available to anyone who wants to assess the high-speed connection but it uses Flash so users of browsers not supporting Flash like 64-bit Internet Explorer cannot perform the test.

To start, go to www.speedtest.net. Once there, you see a map of North America with pyramid and star icons scattered about. The icons represent various servers to test the connection with.

Speedtest will select a server to test with but you have the choice of testing with any other server.

Click "Begin Test" to use the default server or click on any icon to start. In the three-step testing process, Speedtest first communicates with the test server and then it measures the download speed, the one most important to web surfers. In the third step the upload speed is measured.

The results of steps two and three are reported as a number of Mega bits per second. My result with the Burlington server was a whopping 10.49Mbps download and 1.07Mbps for upload which are both decent speeds.

Ron Poland is a professor in the Computer Information Systems AAS program at Clinton Community College. Poland is certified in computer repair and networking by the Computer Technology Industry Association (CompTIA). He is also a Cisco certified network assistant. Questions may be sent to him via e-mail at ron@ronpoland.com.

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