While the saying “you get what you pay for” may be true sometimes… it’s not always true when it comes to your internet or data service.  You may have signed up for the hare, but some days it performs more like a tortoise. 


Our 3rd Secrets of a Salesperson tip will demystify internet speed so that you will know what you’re REALLY paying for.

There are many factors that effect how well your internet connection performs, such as your location, quality of the network equipment you’re using, and abilities of the end-user devices.  We are going to put those factors on hold, however, and focus on the real meaning of the numbers that the internet salesperson is selling to you, so that you will know exactly what you’re paying for.

Data delivery methods vary greatly– there are multiple circuit options for businesses to consider and should be reviewed with an experienced telecommunications adviser.   


Most homes and businesses utilize some form of DSL (digital subscriber line) from a local internet service provider (ISP). DSL is a generic term for broadband, also a generic term that can be applied to any internet service of 25 mbps or more. What does 25 mbps really mean?

Speed = Bandwidth

Internet “speed” is really bandwidth, since it isn’t actual speed, but rather the volume of information per unit of time that an internet connection can handle.  Higher bandwidth simply means that large amounts of data can pass along the connection faster than a connection with a lower bandwidth.

Bandwidth is typically expressed in bits per second, such as 25 Mbps for example, which is an abbreviated way of indicating a data transfer rate of 25 million bits (megabits) of data transmitted every second.


To understand how internet “speed” works, (or doesn’t work as the case may be!) let’s all close our eyes and visualize a freeway.  A freeway with 5 lanes on both sides with only a few cars on it will flow nicely, right?   If your car represents 5 megabits of data, and the freeway can handle 25 megabits of data at given moment, then your car is going to move along just fine and arrive at the destination at the expected time. To be more realistic with this analogy, though, we need to change that freeway to 5 lanes on one side (upload)  and just one lane on the other (download) side.  When your bandwidth is 25/4, that means up to 25 mbps upload bandwidth and 4 mbps for downloading.traffic jam

Now let’s say your car is traveling the same freeway at rush hour, or when there’s construction and the lanes merge into one, and we start to have some significant reductions in speed.  All it takes is for a few other people trying to be in the same spot at the same time…. and now no one’s making it home for dinner.

This is the same as your internet connection. 

Let’s say you signed up for an internet service speed of 25/4 mbps.  The salesperson tells you that means you will have highspeed abilities up to 25 megabits per second– many times faster than you need for downloading video or other data.

Here’s where we reveal the secret tip.

The important key phrase that provider said is “up to.” What that really means is: “in a perfect world where you are the only person using our internet service and the weather is perfect and your modem is brand new and you’re having a good hair day, well then you MIGHT have speeds reaching close to 25 megabits per second.”

But you aren’t their only customer. And the weather is rarely perfect.  And your modem is a few years old….

Suffice it to say, you’re not getting 25 mbps.

What are you getting?

Not 25 mb. You are sharing in a proverbial communal drinking trough with the rest of the businesses and residences in your area. 

This is perfectly legal– it’s called contention ratio, and it means that everyone in the area is sharing the same internet line.  The exact ratio isn’t publicized, unfortunately, but unless you pay for a dedicated line (more on that in an upcoming blog),  it is a good rule of thumb to assume that your bandwidth is approximately half of the speed that you signed up for.

So, if you have a 100 mb line, and a fairly low contention ratio, then you’ll likely get average speeds of 35-65 mbps. If you are using a line with a high contention ration, however, and you’re all utilizing the internet at the same time, your speed may drop to a delicate 2 mbps.  UGH.

If the ratio isn’t publicized, and the advertised speed isn’t realistic, how on earth do you know what your business needs?

Don’t despair.  There are several internet speed tests you should run from your location that will provide an evaluation of your connection. Here’s one you can use right now: http://www.speedtest.net/

Don’t stop with one test, though!

Run several tests at different times of day and different days of the week to see the fluctuation and range you can expect.  That will provide a good estimation of what you’re working with. 

Next,  if  considering any type of technology “as a service”, such as VoIP phones, contact center as a service, etc., then you should also run bandwidth tests from those providers as well, since the data transfer will be traveling over both your internet line AND theirs.

The best way to investigate these factors and others is to work with a vendor-neutral consultant.  A good consultant won’t charge for their assistance, and will be on your side to find the right service provider for YOUR needs.  A well-connected consultant will be able to provide the appropriate tests and details that should play a role in your company’s decision. Equipped with the knowledge of what will assist or hinder your business’ performance abilities, you will be able to determine with the right amount of bandwidth for your daily operations.

What if you don’t want to be at the mercy of contention ratios and variable performance factors? Well, there are other data service options you can utilize, which will be covered in the next Secrets of a Salesperson blog.