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Rapid advances in technology over the last few years have made a broadband connection essential for many of us in our daily lives. Streaming more HD movies, downloading music, and using data-heavy video chat services like Skype and FaceTime can make basic broadband speeds seem a bit sluggish.
Luckily, you do have some options to choose from. We've taken a look at three of the larger broadband providers in the country -- Comcast, Time Warner Cable, and Verizon -- to show you some options if you would like to dramatically increase your Internet speeds.
How fast is my broadband now?
The average speed that Americans get from their home Internet service is 5.8 megabits per second (Mbps). Those numbers may seem decent, but those speeds place the United States in 13th place worldwide, behind countries like Latvia, the Czech Republic, and Romania. Even the city with the fastest Internet service in America, Boston, only averages 8.4Mbps -- speeds that wouldn't place it in the top 50 cities worldwide.
America's slow broadband speeds aren't due to lack of availability but a lack of knowledge among cable companies' customers. Cable companies push low-end broadband packages, because they are usually cheaper -- and much slower. For instance, most Verizon customers don't have a clue that Verizon offered broadband with speeds of 300Mbps on June 17 -- the fastest broadband connection in the country, fast enough to download a two-hour HD movie in under two minutes.
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What are my high-speed options?
Aside from Verizon's world-class offering (which costs $204 a month), there are other extremely fast options from Comcast, Time Warner Cable, and Verizon.
Coming in right behind Verizon's highest broadband package is a 150Mbps offering that costs $94 a month. Another option is an $84-a-month plan that will get you speeds of 75Mbps. Be aware of the hidden costs with Verizon; all of these prices are contingent upon a two-year contract (if you don't sign, the price goes up $5 a month, plus you have to pay a $100 equipment fee) as well as Verizon's home phone service (another $5-a-month surcharge if you don't have it).
Time Warner Cable also has faster options for you, but they are nowhere near what Verizon is offering. Time Warner's highest offering is $79 a month, which gets you speeds of 50Mbps for your home Internet needs. For $49 and $39 a month, you can get speeds of 30Mbps and 20Mbps, respectively. All of these prices are promotional and will rise after the first year.
Comcast does offer higher speeds than Time Warner Cable, but it comes at a premium. At 105Mbps, Comcast's fastest option comes in at $199 a month, $5 cheaper than Verizon's highest option, which offers speeds nearly three times as fast. For $115 a month with Comcast, you will get speeds of 50Mbps, while $50 a month will bring you speeds of 30Mbps (for the first six months).
Is it worth it?
If you live by yourself and are not an avid Internet user, you may not need this kind of speed. But if you live with techies or have teenagers who are constantly on the Internet, it will definitely come in handy.
Even with all of the advances in technology, your broadband connection shares a trait with your water heater -- if everyone uses the hot water at the same time, the water will lose heat more quickly than it would otherwise.
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The same is true with broadband. If you are streaming Netflix and surfing the web on your iPad, your 5Mbps Internet connection will take much longer to download that large file than it usually does.
If you are experiencing slow speeds or just want a faster connection, a super-fast Internet connection is definitely worth paying for. If you do choose to upgrade, you will miss out on all the fun of buffering Netflix shows, slow-loading YouTube clips, and long waits for file downloads -- but we're sure you'll find something to do with all that free time.