Actual internet speed can be up to 3 times slower than advertised

William S. | December 20, 2022

Internet service providers (ISPs) often advertise internet speeds that are significantly higher than the actual speeds experienced by consumers. This discrepancy can be frustrating and confusing for users who expect to receive the speeds promised by their ISPs.

According to the Atlas VPN team’s analyzed data, internet speed can be up to 3 times slower than advertised. As the numbers suggest, the faster internet packages are usually far from real speeds, while the slower internet plans are more true to what is advertised.

The data is based on the Broadband Pricing: What Consumer Reports Learned From 22,000 Internet Bills research. To gather data, the participants of this survey were asked to take an internet speed test using an online tool hosted by Measurement Lab (M-Lab). Overall, 6,284 bills were analyzed to find the difference between tested and advertised internet speeds.

Internet packages up to 125 Mbps deliver the speeds ISPs advertise. Some people could reach even higher speeds than advertised in the plan. However, internet deals going up from 150 Mbps start to decline in actual speeds. 

For example, the first most noticeable difference can be felt in the 250 Mbps advertised package, as the median tested speed reached 195 Mbps. The further we go, the actual speed goes further from what is advertised in the deal. The advertised 400 Mbps packages have a median tested speed of 256 Mbps.

The most significant difference is in premium plans that offer 940 Mpbs and up. The median tested speed of the advertised 1200 Mbps deal is only 360 Mpbs. That is a 70% contrast between what is offered by the ISPs and what internet users actually get.

Why is that?

One of the main reasons for slower internet speeds is network congestion. When a large number of people are using the internet simultaneously, it can cause the network to become overloaded and lead to slower speeds. This is especially common in densely populated areas or during peak usage times.

Another reason is that internet speeds can be slowed down by hardware limitations on a user's device. For example, if a device has a slow processor or an outdated wireless network card, it may not be able to keep up with the speed of the internet connection.

Furthermore, many ISPs have "fair usage policies" that limit the amount of bandwidth a user can consume at any given time. If a user exceeds their allotted bandwidth, the ISP may throttle their speeds to prevent further strain on the network.

Improve your speed

There are several steps you can take to improve your internet speed and get the most out of your internet connection:

  1. Check your internet plan: Make sure you are getting the speed you are paying for. If you are not getting the speed promised by your internet plan, contact your internet service provider (ISP) to find out what might be causing the issue and how it can be resolved.
  2. Restart your router: Restarting your router can often resolve connectivity issues and improve internet speeds. To do this, unplug your router, wait a few seconds, and then plug it back in.
  3. Connect your device directly to the router: Wireless connections can be slower and less reliable than wired connections. If you use a wireless connection, try connecting your device directly to the router using an Ethernet cable to see if it improves your internet speed.
  4. Use a VPN: Sometimes, using a VPN can reduce network congestion by routing traffic through less crowded servers and stopping your ISP from throttling your internet connection. This can potentially improve internet speed, especially during peak usage times.
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