If you're cutting back on your Internet speed to save money, that's very financially-savvy of you.
However, if your family's day-to-day routine relies heavily on Internet use, being financially-savvy might not be worth it.
"High speed internet or broadband opens up a world of possibilities, and it makes our quality of life better," says David Keyes, community technology program manager for the City of Seattle's Department of Information Technology. "High-speed internet also gives us the ability to do things better and faster without interruptions."
So, before you decide to skimp on high-speed Internet, consider these reasons why having a slow Internet speed could actually hurt you in the long run.
You Stream TV Shows and Movies
If you're not paying for cable (because you're being financially-savvy, right?), and you're streaming TV shows and movies instead, then skimping on your Internet speed could really leave you frustrated.
Just imagine this scenario: You sit down in your comfy chair in the family room with a big bowl of popcorn to stream a movie. After just a few minutes, you realize it will be impossible to view with all the pauses and poor sound.
"You'll keep getting that message on the screen saying that it's buffering. Anything that is a streaming event - movie, video, or music - requires a certain amount of bandwidth to come through quickly without pauses," says tech expert Mike Celayeta. He is director of product development at CMIT Solutions, which is headquartered in Austin, Texas, and offers IT management and monitoring solutions to small businesses.
Bandwidth is the amount of data that can be transmitted in a fixed amount of time, he says.
So, unless you're happy watching interrupted movies and shows, check with your Internet provider to make sure you have the fastest speed available to stream over the Internet.
How Much Internet Speed is Enough? According to the Federal Communications Commission's "Household Broadband Guide," if only one user is using one device to stream HD videos, one to two Megabits per second (Mbps) is sufficient. However, if you don't have cable, and you and your spouse are both streaming HD videos, then you may need anywhere from six to 15 Mbps - or more, notes the broadband guide.*
You Work From Home
Working from home is one of the many benefits bestowed upon us thanks to the advances in technology. However, if you're not paying for the right technology (i.e. Internet speed) then your work-from-home days may be in jeopardy.
Let's face it, could anything be more unprofessional than a video conference at your home office that comes over with poor picture and sound quality? No…because that's pretty darn embarrassing.
"It is critical to have high speed internet for a home business or for those who telecommute from their offices," Celayeta says. "I conduct webinars from my house for perspective clients. If I didn't have enough bandwidth, there wouldn't be good clear communications. With high-speed Internet, my clients feel like we are in the same room."
Keyes adds that high speed Internet can open up a world of potential for telecommuters.
"The faster the speed you have the more you don't have to wait for things," Keyes says. "For instance, an architect can email large data files to his client without any lag time. Whatever profession someone has, high-speed Internet can help them succeed."
How Much Internet Speed is Enough? If you're working from home, then we can probably assume that you're using your Internet for functions like email, web surfing, video conferencing, and other higher-demand applications. If this is the case, and you're using numerous devices while you're working - like a desktop, iPad, and iPhone - then you'll need more than 15 Mbps, according to the FCC's broadband guide.*
More than Four People in Your Family Use Internet at the Same Time
The kids do their homework assignments online. All three of them have either a tablet or a laptop. Your wife works on her computer from the home office and uses her Smartphone constantly. You have a Blu-ray player that connects directly to the Internet.
It's amazing to think about how many devices in your home are using the Internet. More importantly, it's amazing how having so many devices can slow down your Internet speed…a lot. "It's usually first-come first serve on the bandwidth in your home," says Celayeta. "If you don't have high-speed internet, someone will be missing out on the rich content on the Internet."
That means if you are the first person who gets on the Internet at your home, you probably won't have any problems. However, everyone else might suffer through poor connections without high-speed Internet.
How Much Internet Speed is Enough? If four or more users in your home are partaking in functions like email, web surfing, HD streaming, or online gaming, you'll need more than 15 Mbps, according to the FCC's broadband guide.*
You're in a Long-Distance Relationship
Distance makes the heart grow fonder? Yes, but fuzzy video chats don't.
So, if you rely on video chats to stay connected to the people you love, don't let your limited communication be ruined by a slow Internet connection.
Upgrading your Internet service to faster speeds could allow you to have a much better communication experience with your loved ones without the video dropping or being fuzzy, says Nathan Stooke, CEO of Wisper Wireless Internet in Belleville, Ill.
"More and more, it's about becoming connected with family members who aren't in the same town. When I travel to South Africa or even just out of town, I can Skype my wife, and we can actually see each other and talk," he says. "We have more of a bond than when you hear words over the phone."
How Much Internet Speed is Enough? If you're only using one device to video conference, the FCC's broadband guide notes that you can do this with just 1 to 2 Mbps.
*Information on broadband speed is from the Federal Communication Commission's "Household Broadband Guide" which can be found at http://www.fcc.gov/guides/household-broadband-guide.