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Looking for a faster Internet connection? You may have to move.

One of the biggest factors in streaming quality is the connection speed between you and the Internet. And you have no control over most of that connection.

The Internet is a system of networks joining together at certain junctions and hubs. Much like traffic on a motorway, it slows down in times of heavy use. It can also be slow due to poor design or aging equipment.

So Internet connection speed sometimes depends on geography.  Changing providers might help, but it might not. And in some places that choice may be severely limited.

How can you know what speed you’re actually getting?

Thankfully, it’s pretty easy to check what you’re speed is yourself. You can also find out what speeds others in your area are getting and what providers they are using. Here’s a list of a few websites you can use for testing your speed:

Speedtest.net

check internet connection with speedtest.net/

Screenshot from http://www.speedtest.net/

Operated by Ookla, Speedtest.net claims to be the world’s most popular and accurate speed test. Their website is fairly intuitive. There is a big “Begin Test” button overlaying a map of your location. After you click the button, you’ll see download and upload speedometers as the test progresses. Then your results are displayed at the top when done.

If you create an account, Speedtest will keep a record of your tests and you can compare to global averages. Speedtest relies on a modern browser supporting the latest Flash to complete the test. If you’re running an older system, browser, or a mobile device, the test may not work for you.

Broadbandspeedchecker.co.uk

use broadbandspeedchecker.co.uk to compare local internet connection speeds

Screenshot from http://www.broadbandspeedchecker.co.uk/

This is a similar service to Speedtest, with a similar look. You’ll find the speedometers and a button to “Start speed test”. Once done, your upload and download speeds are displayed above the speedometers. This website also uses Flash for testing,

One major difference though is Broadbandspeedchecker offers detailed information on comparing your speed to others in your area in the UK. Clicking on the “speed in my area” tab leads to a page requesting your postal code. If you enter your postal code, the website will deliver a map showing your location, the results other users in the area have received and the provider they used.

If you’re experiencing slow speeds, this tool is a great way to find out if the problem is your provider, your location, or if it’s just you. How you improve your speed depends on what you discover in the comparison.

uswitch.com

uswitch.com to help find internet provider

Screenshot from http://www.uswitch.com/

Another UK focused speed testing site is uswitch.com. Using this test is a little more intrusive. You need to provide your postal code, select your provider, and rate your provider before you can start the test. You also have the option to receive your test results via email.

Even though there is more involved in using the test, they’ve completed over 256,000 tests in the last thirty days. They have a huge database of test data that they compile across the country. If you click on “tools” in the broadband section you’ll find their “Broadband StreetStats”. Like Broadbandspeedchecker, you can see a map of test results in your area and the providers. But uswitch is a little bit easier to use, and looks better with more options for filtering just the results you want to compare to.

Another great feature of uswitch is they maintain a list of the slowest, and the fastest, cities and providers. You’ll find the fastest lists at the bottom of the StreetStat page. As of this writing, Ipswich and Stockport top the list of fastest cities. John Lewis Broadband and Virgin Media  hold the top two spots for fastest providers.

They also recently published results of a review of over 2 million speed tests to find the fastest and slowest locations in the UK. If you’re living at either Wheatley Road in Corringham, Essex, or Erw Fawr in Henryd, North Wales you’re officially have the slowest Internet access speeds in the UK. You can read the full report here.

Can you get a faster speed?

Using the comparison sites above you can find out if your Internet access speeds are too low, and see if you’re being restricted by geography or provider (note there are other reasons you might have slow speeds too).

The uswitch report points out that 73% of the UK population has access to super-fast broadband, but only 15% are taking advantage of it. So if you’re on the low end it might be worth looking at your broadband options. You’ll find most of the sites above offer comparisons of different providers in terms of price as well as speed. Some even offer special discounts.

If you are unable to find a better provider in your location and there is nothing wrong with your own connection (inside your house or business), then maybe the only way to get a better one is to move. If it’s worth it to you or your business. But first, do your research and make sure you’re informed of all the options.

Oliver Burt

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