ORANGEVALE, CA - A conservative estimate says about 80 percent of homes in the United States have computers and more than 90 percent of them have Internet access.
The question is: Are you getting the Internet speed you're paying for?
The answer: It depends on if you've read the fine print. It turns out the "headlines" on almost every Internet package available are a little deceiving.
Victoria Serna of Orangevale is among those deceived. She uses Comcast forInternet service at home, paying for a service that claims to have speeds up to 20 megabytes per second.
However, the package clearly reads "up to 20mbps", meaning that's how fast the connection could be.
After a speed test, Serna's connection topped out at 11.4 megabytes per second.
The fine print of Comcast's deal proves the test correct. It says Comcast can guarantee speeds of 10mbps.
"I just trust what they tell me," said Serna. "The selling point on that package was the speed on that package and if I don't get it, yes, it's frustrating. I'm paying for something I'm not receiving."
This isn't solely a Comcast issue. All Internetproviders in the Sacramento area offer speeds "up to".
On top of that, there are a lot of variables affecting connection speed.
Some providers use fiber-optic lines, and the further you are from their hub, the slower your speed. Yourneighbors who are closer get faster service.
Another factor is the wireless router you have. It could be too old and can't handle faster speeds.
Ryan Eldridge of Nerds on Call says the best option is just get a new router.
"In general, your slowdown is going to be your Internet speed, not your router speed (when you buy a new one)," said Eldridge.
Many customers also don't know that thedistance from the router matters. In another test, a laptop about 100 yards from Serna's house dropped from 11.4mbpsto 4.3mbps.
So if you're ready to start reconsidering your speed package, what should you know?
Eldridge said don't go crazy: You do not need the fastest Internet speed available.
"That's like buying a Ferrari to deliver the mail," he said. "It's just something you don't really need."
He said the basic speed is more than adequate, with a basic router.
"So if you've got a xBox, a Playstation3, a computer and maybe a tablet, this will be just fine for you, just a $50router<' Eldridge said.
However, if there are multiple Internetusersat the same time, consider something a little quicker. It's like slicing a pie: Everybody gets a little piece.
"If you've got a family of just wired people, you might want to look at the higher speed because everybody that gets on slows it down incrementally," Eldridge said.
Finally, what Serna didn't do: Read the fine print and shop around.
"Maybe I will shop around, I think it's time," she said. "I've never looked anywhere else, I've never had a need to. But now maybe I should."
By Nick Monacelli, firstname.lastname@example.org