Why Are Internet Speeds Slower Than What ISPs List?

internetDon’t Worry, You’re Not Getting Ripped Off

Have you ever started downloading a file, saw your browser downloading at 3 MB/s, and thought to yourself, “Hey, I’m paying for 28 MB/s Internet speeds!”?

Well, the truth is that when Internet Service Providers (ISPs) display their different Internet speed plans, they are not actually listing them in megabytes per second as many people think they are. Instead, Internet data speeds are listed in megabits per second. A megabit is only one eighth of a megabyte.

Although this is often a source of confusion, service providers are not trying to trick people when they do this. In fact, there are a couple reasons for it.

One is that this is how it has always been. In the 1970s, everything was measured in bits per second (bps). Later, in the 1990s, it was often in kilobits per second (kbs). Then, during the 20 years between 1998 and 2018, our Internet speeds increased by over 1,500%.

Another reason is that when data is sent over a network, it is sent in packets. Each packet usually consists of a header and trailer that contain all sorts of identifying information about the data being sent, known as the payload. Therefore, if a file is being downloaded, not all of the bits being sent over the network are parts of that file. ISPs use bits per second to describe the capacity of all information being sent.

Here is a list of internet speeds converted to data transfer speeds:

10 Mbps = 1.25 MB/s
20 Mbps = 2.5 MB/s
30 Mbps = 3.75 MB/s
40 Mbps = 5 MB/s
50 Mbps = 6.25 MB/s
75 Mbps = 9.375 MB/s
100 Mbps = 12.5 MB/s

And here is a list of common units of measurement used for data storage.

kb = kilobit = 1,000 bits
kB = kilobyte = 8,000 bits
Mb = megabit = 1,000,000 bits
MB = megabyte = 8,000,000 bits
Gb = gigabit = 1,000,000,000 bits
GB = gigabyte = 8,000,000,000 bits

(Image Source: iCLIPART)