Software Development
Digital access / Internet

What internet speed do you really need?

Internet service providers are offering speeds of 1,000 Mbps and higher. Does your home need that much? Here's a look at what different rates get you.

How fast can your internet go? (Image by Holly Quinn, made with SDXL)

This editorial article is a part of Broadband Connectivity Month of's editorial calendar, underwritten by Verizon. Verizon is a Ecosystem Builder client.

Full disclosure: Comcast is a Ecosystem Builder client. That relationship is unrelated to this report.
It’s 2023. Do you know your internet speed?

As broadband infrastructure projects are bringing high-speed internet to small towns, rural areas and urban Wi-Fi deserts, and speeds across the board are getting faster, even people who have been using broadband for ages might be wondering how much speed their home really needs.

Before streaming and online gaming, deciding on an internet speed was pretty simple: Less speed meant slower downloading and loading time, especially when there were multiple computers in the house. The fastest speed gave you faster downloads and loading times. Whether waiting less was worth paying more was up to the consumer.

It’s still up to the consumer — internet plans can start at 25 Mbps, with low-cost high speed plans at around 100 Mbps, the general threshold for “high speed.” But today there are speeds available at a higher cost that may offer more speed than you will ever use, even as a gamer or heavy-use remote worker.

There are plenty of free platforms available to test your internet’s current speed. Go on — try it out via Verizon, Xfinity, Spectrum, Google Fiber, or any number of others.

About 65% of households in the US have internet speeds considered fast (80 to 300 Mbps) or very fast (300+ Mbps). found that the average US household speed in 2022 was 256.03 Mbps.

Your provider might offer speeds as high as 1,200 Mbps — a lot of Mbps for a household.

What are Mbps?

Mbps stands for Megabits per second, a measure of data transfer rate. Higher Mbps means faster download rate — something that impacts your internet usage even if you’re not specifically downloading a file. Streaming movies, for example, require a minimum Mbps to play smoothly.

A lot of the things you use the internet for, like browsing, social media, email and streaming music require just 1 Mbps or less, according to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Things like gaming, streaming HD video, HD teleconferencing and telecommuting require more Mbps, but generally still less than 10.

Right now, the type of household usage that requires the most Mbps is 4K streaming, which requires a minimum 25 Mbps speed. As technology evolves, the minimum requirements will likely rise.

What we think we need may be a bit skewed: In its Household Broadband Guide, the FCC recommends that “advanced” use households — those with four simultaneous, high-use users — have a speed of at least 25 Mbps, which is the lowest speed offered by some providers. Moderate and light users with small households can get by with as little as 3 Mbps.

If my speed is so high, why is my internet slow?

Have you ever taken an Mbps speed test when your internet felt sluggish, only for it to come back with lightning-fast speeds? The fact is some devices, especially if they’re older, can only go as fast as they go regardless of internet speeds. A device cleanup can help speed it up, or you might just need a more compatible device. Malware can also slow things down.

Another issue might be your router. If you have a router from your provider that you haven’t updated in a couple of years and Netflix starts buffering, that’s a good indication that the service has improved beyond what the router can handle. Providers often replace routers with no additional fee.

Common internet speeds

If you’re looking at internet speeds that all exceed the FCC’s recommendations and are unsure how high to go, here’s a basic guide, according to various sources cited above.

  • 25 Mbps — The gold standard of high-speed internet a decade ago, 25 Mbps can still support a single person or couple. It supports streaming, even 4K streaming (with no other devices in use), and console gaming (Xbox only requires 3 Mbps minimum) but it doesn’t support multiple people using devices very well. ( saw this cited as an issue when school went remote early in the pandemic.)
  • 100 Mbps — This is now the most basic level of high-speed internet, as 4K streaming has become more popular. It can handle streaming, console gaming and multiple people using devices reasonably well, such as kids doing homework while Mom pays bills. 100 Mbps internet packages may be free for households that meet income eligibility for the FCC Affordable Connectivity Program, the $14.2 billion federal benefits program that provides a $30 subsidy for internet service to eligible families.
  • 200 Mbps — For most family homes, 200 Mbps is enough to allow multiple people streaming 4K, multiple people playing console or PC gaming and multiple people using devices, including working from home.
  • 300 to 400 Mbps — These downloads are a bit faster than 200 Mbps for general downloading and the number of people using the internet at the same time is marginally increased. This has become a pretty standard level for households that want very fast internet.
  • 500 Mbps — At this level, you might be paying for more speed than you need unless your home has multiple exceptionally heavy internet users. A family of two or four with 500 Mbps will have a huge amount of buffer before the speeds slow down, but their everyday usage won’t be noticeably faster than with 300 Mbps. That said, 500 Mbps is not uncommon with newer home internet setups.
  • 1,000 Mbps — You may consider this super-high-speed internet if your large household does a lot of simultaneous 4K streaming, remote work that requires a lot of downloading large files, pro-level gaming and a lot of smart home technology.
  • 1,200 Mbps — This is the fastest speed Xfinity offers to household consumers, and it’s marketed for the “ultra-connected” who are “staying ahead of the curve.” Households might eventually need 1,200 Mbps to meet their internet needs — the question is, do you want to pay for that now?

At the end of the day, your home internet speed is probably higher than you need, especially if you’ve made speed a priority. If you’re making an adjustment to your internet account or opening your first high-speed internet account, you don’t have to go with the highest speed package.

200 Mbps will meet the needs for a generous 50 Mbps per person in a household of four. Modify that to 100 Mbps for a PC gamer, telecommuter or full-time online student, and you should find your family’s sweet spot.

Companies: Comcast / FCC / Federal Communications Commission / Verizon
Series: Broadband Connectivity Month 2023

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