The convenience and ease of the Internet is wonderful, but when you don't have the right Internet speed, there are some drawbacks, too.
"As we more effectively leverage the richness of the Web (from saving work in the cloud to gaming that requires low latency), our cumulative broadband intensive activities sometimes reaches a tipping point that requires an upgrade," says Daniel Kent, executive director and founder of the digital literacy nonprofit, Net Literacy.
Have your reached your Internet speed tipping point? If so, do you know how much Internet speed you really need and more importantly, how much it will cost?
Keep reading to get the answers…
Signs to Upgrade Your Internet Speed
Websites Take Forever to Load: Surfing the Internet can put a lot of demands on your connection. If you're having trouble opening up websites, upgrading your connection might be the answer.
"When I last upgraded my broadband service, I experienced a qualitative rather than a quantifiable improvement," says Kent. "I was also surprised by how much I enjoyed experiencing Web pages rendering instantaneously."
You Can't Stream Uninterrupted Videos or Movies: If you notice that you're constantly yelling at your computer when your show or movie pauses to buffer more video - it's time to upgrade to a faster speed.
"Often times the best way to improve performance is to subscribe to a more robust tier of broadband service," Kent says. "Price out your broadband upgrade options and choose the one that best meets your requirements."
Your Video Chats Freeze: It wasn't too long ago that video calls seemed like sci-fi. But today, Skype, iChat, and other video chat programs help us stay connected to people all over the world.
But if your internet connection isn't fast enough to support video chat, your video calls might stutter, freeze, or get dropped altogether. To avoid this, you need to investigate a faster internet connection.
What's the Right Amount of Internet Speed for Your Household?
To figure out exactly how much Internet speed you need, we've taken a look at the Federal Communication Commission's (FCC) "Household Broadband Guide," below. The chart identifies how many megabits per second (Mbps) a household should have - depending on their usage.
The FCC breaks it down as follows:
Basic Service = 1 to 2 Mbps
Medium Service = 6 to 15 Mbps
Advanced Service = More than 15 Mbps
How Much will it Cost to Upgrade?
The cost for high-speed internet will depend on where you live, how many providers are in your area, and how many Mbps you want. For example:
Verizon's website has the following Internet offers for a one-year contract*:
.5 to 1 Mbps at $19.99/month
1.1 to 15 Mbps at $29.99/ month
AT&T's website quotes the following prices for a one-year contract*:
3 Mbps at $29.95/per month
6 Mbps at $34.95/per month
12 Mbps at $39.95/per month
18 Mbps at $44.95/per month
24 Mbps at $54.95/per month
How to Approach Your Provider about Upgrading Your Speed
Still unsure about how much speed you need? Don't worry, you might be able to try out an Internet speed and change it if it's not the right for you, Kent says.
In fact, "Most broadband providers allow their customers to upgrade their services and - if you find it's not a good value proposition - downgrade the broadband without paying a downgrade penalty," Kent says. "But ask them about downgrade costs to be certain," he warns.
Knowing you can downgrade if you get more speed than you need might make it easier to try out some faster internet options.
*Prices listed as of April 3, 2013.