'What is a good internet speed?': The internet speeds you should aim for, based on how you use the internet

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'What is a good internet speed?': The internet speeds you should aim for, based on how you use the internet
In general, a good internet speed is one with a high Mpbs count. Shutterstock

  • There is no one "good" internet speed, but you'll likely need a download speed of at least 12 megabits per second (Mbps) to browse the internet comfortably.
  • Generally, internet speeds can be divided into three categories: basic, average, and advanced.
  • If multiple devices are using your internet connection at the same time, you'll need internet speeds around 25 Mbps to accommodate them.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

The world of internet speeds can be tremendously confusing. This is especially true when you're picking out a new internet provider or data package, and become inundated with different stats and pricing sheets.

Internet speed is typically measured in megabits per second (Mbps). There's no such thing as one perfect internet speed, but in general, the higher your Mbps, the better off you are.

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The speed you want will depend on what you use the internet for, and how many devices will be using the internet at once.

For example, checking your email takes up much less internet bandwidth (in other words, needs less speed) than downloading files or streaming a video.

But of course, you probably don't use the internet for just one activity at a time — in fact, you probably don't even use one device at a time.

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You might also need higher internet speeds if you video conference or upload files often.

To help you figure out what speeds you'll need, here's a guide.

"Good" internet speeds, explained

The average internet download speed ranges from 12 to 25 Mbps. This is what most people in the US have.

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But there are other options: "Basic" service will go from 3 to 8 Mbps download speed, while "advanced" service will exceed 25 Mbps (that's also defined as "fast internet" by the FCC).

Be aware that internet providers may have different standards for upload versus download speeds. Download speeds tend to be higher, so that's what you'll see advertised. Research both download and upload speeds to figure out your best option.

For reference, the FCC sets the minimum upload speed for fast internet at just 3 Mbps. Upload speeds usually range from 1 Mbps to 15 Mbps.

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'What is a good internet speed?': The internet speeds you should aim for, based on how you use the internet
You can test your internet speeds through Google, and various other websites. William Antonelli/Business Insider

To figure out which what sort of internet speeds you'll need, you need to be aware of how you're using the internet, and how that breaks down in the grand scheme of things:

Light use: You only use the internet for basic things like email, reading news, basic video, voice calls, and music streaming.

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Moderate use: You use all the things included in the "Light" use category, as well as one of the following — streaming HD video, multi-party video conferencing, online gaming, or telecommuting.

High use: You do all of the things included in the "Light" use category, and more than one of the "Moderate" uses.

If you plan on moderate use, you're likely going to want to go with those average speeds in the 12 to 25 Mbps range.

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If your household consists of a single user on one device at a time, and you fall into the moderate use category, you could probably get away with basic service speeds.

On the other hand, if you have four or more users or devices at a time, or you frequently stream 4K video or transfer large files, you'd probably want to upgrade to advanced service speeds.

But even if you stick to a particular usage category, you may still wish to go for more speed to gain more freedom in the way you use the internet. The larger your download speeds, the more noticeable the change in your experience will be.

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'What is a good internet speed?': The internet speeds you should aim for, based on how you use the internet
If your family uses multiple devices at one time, you'll need faster internet speeds. Chad Springer/Getty Images

So if you're stuck between two options that are only a difference of say, 10 Mbps, you probably won't see much difference between the two. But if you were to go with a fiber-optic connection, you may find speeds ranging in the 100 to 2,000 Mbps area, so the difference will be considerable.

Fiber-optic internet is also less susceptible to slowdowns, so you may also want to factor that into your decision.

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Again, there's no one-size-fits-all internet plan. It'll depend on how much data you use.

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