Does Your High Speed Internet Plan Need a Little Boost?

by Barrett

Those blinking lights on your broadband modem are a soothing reminder your home Internet service is up and running. Whether you’ve got enough bandwidth to handle your family’s needs is another question entirely!

Those blinking lights on your broadband modem are a soothing reminder your home Internet service is up and running. Whether you’ve got enough bandwidth to handle your family’s needs is another question entirely!

Fade up from black to a moving star field.
In the distance, we see the ship.
Dissolve to a wide shot of the bridge.
The door whisks open.

Captain Barrett walks in.
He does a quick survey.
All the glowing lights seem to be blinking correctly.
He sits down in the captain’s chair and…


This is the kind of daydreaming that happens when you’re counting the days until you can finally get to see Star Trek Into Darkness.

Let’s try this again…

I walk into my home office, pet my cat Filbert, who’s always waiting for me, and then sit down in my black swivel chair from IKEA.

Boot up my trusty iMac.
Look at my Optimum Online broadband modem.
Everything seems fine.
I begin happily typing away.

They say ignorance is bliss…

We Need More Dilithium Crystals!
My wife enters our office and walks up behind me.
I sense a disturbance in the Force.
(oops, wrong universe)
(but with J.J. Abrams at the helm of both franchises, does that really matter anymore?)

My Jedi Master speaks.
(Actually, Yoga)
“Hey, how fast is our Internet connection?”

I look up.
(I should know the answer.)

“I’m not really sure. But it seems to be working okay, right?”
(inferior response)

“The IT guy at work says we need at least 30 Mbps download speed.”
(megabits per second)

My wife’s job sometimes requires her to use powerful web publishing tools early in the morning or late at night from home.
So our Internet bandwidth download speeds have to be beefy enough for her software to work.

So I quickly go to to double check.

It’s clocks in at only 18 Mbps.

Red Alert!!

The IT guy is in the doghouse.
(and I’m not talking about the friendly IT expert at work!)

Upgrading Optimum Online
So I call Cablevision’s Optimum Online tech support to complain about our obviously slow Internet connection.

My complaint is short lived, because I quickly find out our current Internet plan is only designed to provide a download speed of 15 Mbps.

Cablevision was actually exceeding its service level commitment.
Shame on them!

So now what?

Was there a higher level of service I could buy?
(of course)

It’s Optimum Online Boost Plus, and for $14.95 more a month, you get up to 50 Mbps for downloads.
And the upload speed improves from 2 Mbps to 8 Mbps.
(Upload speeds are always designed to be slower.)

This tier also comes with web hosting features and additional mailboxes, but for now, the pure, raw speed was all I cared about.

So I gave the order and made it so.
(translation: I upgraded to the new Warp Factor 8 plan.)

Problem solved?
Though I have to admit, I was cranky to be shelling out even more to Cablevision as a triple play customer.
(TV, Internet and phone)

The Internet piece alone was $49.95/month.
(with $5 multi-product discount)
(New customers get the first year for $29.95.)

Now, I’m dropping $65/month for my faster Internet connection.

I’ll remind myself that’s the price of a cup of coffee a day and move on…
(and who doesn’t need their cup of Joe?!)

One Size Doesn’t Fit All
So I had restored my family’s tech harmony, but my Optimum upgrade got me thinking about my family’s growing Internet needs…

Once upon a time, one broadband plan was enough…set it and forget it.
15 Mbps?
Sounded good to me.
I thought we were covered.
And I never thought of us as heavy data users…

  • Stream a movie on Apple TV
  • Maybe a little Netflix on my Roku box
  • Some Bob the Builder cartoons on my laptop in the mornings for my three- year-old on Hulu Plus

But the explosion of streaming, online gaming, and social media for all of us has created an ever-growing demand on the broadband pipe.

The Internet Innovation Alliance, a coalition of business and non-profit organizations, has put together a fun little video the kids might enjoy that demonstrates this Internet data explosion.

The Relative Size of Internet Data

So you can see how it makes sense that high speed Internet service tiering would necessarily evolve to keep pace.

Have I Got a Deal for You!
The good news is every service provider is ready to sell you higher data speeds at home to accommodate your growing bandwidth needs.

  • Comcast’s Xfinity Internet service gives you up to 20 Mbps
    Their upgraded Extreme 50 service offers you up to 50 Mbps
  • Time Warner Cable has a whopping six Internet plans ranging from an itty-bitty 1 Mbps to their ‘Ultimate’ plan with 50Mbps
  • Then, there’s AT&T’s High Speed DSL(Digital Subscriber Line)
    Their U-verse High Speed Internet has 5 plans ranging from 3-24 Mbps.
  • Verizon’s Fiber FiOS plans range from
    15 Mbps to 300 Mbps download (Quantum)
    (and 5-65 Mbps upload!)
    That’s crazy fast!
    (and expensive…over $200/month!)
  • And not to be totally outdone, Cablevision has it’s own ‘Uber’ plan:
    Optimum Online Ultra
    Up to 101 Mbps

How Much Bandwidth Do You Really Need?
So how much speed is fast enough?
The bad news is there is no simple answer.

It’s all about what you’re doing online and then doing the math.

  • Apple TV – 8 Mbps for a 1080p HD movie stream
  • Netflix – 5 Mbps for 720p HD viewing
    and 7 Mbps for their ‘Super HD quality’ (1080p)
  • Hulu Plus – 3 Mbps for HD viewing
    (Basic Hulu doesn’t offer HD)
  • Skype Video- 1.5Mbps

It starts to add up pretty quickly!

Is 15 Mbps Enough?
You’re probably saying to yourself, “I can only do so much damage on my own!”
So 15 Mbps should cover it, right?

That’s true if you’re the only one online.

Families quickly turn the equation upside down, because the real data drain occurs when the usage is ‘cumulative.’

Ask Big Brother
Our government happens to agree with this simple logic.
Yes, believe it or not, the United States of America has an official opinion about all of this!
Keeping up with the times, The FCC has published its own
Broadband Service Consumer’s Guide.

Here are a few of its key points:

  • 1-2 Mbps is enough for email, web surfing and basic streaming video
    (whatever ‘basic’ streaming means)
  • 6-15 Mbps is enough to add either HD streaming, video conferencing, or online gaming
  • More than 15 Mbps is needed if you go with two of the above three data hungry activities
  • Basic web browsing doesn’t improve much after 10Mbps

So it all boils down to this:

  • If you’re on your own, 15 Mbps will probably cover you.
  • If you’ve got company at home, simultaneously sucking from your broadband spigot, it’s time to upgrade!

Or shall we say, you’ll need a little ‘boost.’

You may continue to dream about the day you’ll cut your cable cord, but your high speed Internet is already securely hardwired into your life.

It’s not going anywhere…

Resistance is futile.