Best Way to Measure my Internet Speed Before Calling Cable Company?
September 25, 2013 5:51 AM   Subscribe

Over the past week my internet speed seems to have taken a dive, and I'd like to make sure I'm correct before calling the cable company.

Graphic heavy webpages are taking a while to load, when they use to be instant. And watching movies on my Apple TV has been almost impossible. If it doesn't speed up soon, I'm going to have to call the cable company to hopefully get the problem solved (if it's on their side).

I'm first going to try and find what speed they guarantee on their website. Then I'd like to measure the speed I'm receiving. What's the best way of doing that? I have not had good experiences when talking to support, so I'd like to be as sure as I can that I know what I'm talking about.

A website, app, whatever would have the best bet at not being dismissed by support (I use a Mac and iPhone).

Thanks for any help.
posted by ratherbethedevil to Technology (13 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
posted by Ferrari328 at 5:56 AM on September 25, 2013 [2 favorites]

I believe you're looking for
posted by Grither at 5:56 AM on September 25, 2013

Speedtest at
posted by jquinby at 5:56 AM on September 25, 2013

All righty then, here is an alternative for your Mac:

Open a terminal window and paste in the following:

curl -o /dev/null

You can substitute links to any of the test files here if you want to be more geographically selective. You should get a progress report along the lines of this:
  % Total    % Received % Xferd  Average Speed   Time    Time     Time  Current
                                 Dload  Upload   Total   Spent    Left  Speed
100 11.0M  100 11.0M    0     0   805k      0  0:00:13  0:00:13 --:--:--  335k

posted by jquinby at 6:02 AM on September 25, 2013

You might want to check your ISP support pages, to see if they have a speed test site that is internal to their network, too. If you measure your speeds using their test servers, you'll have a lot less hassle from support than if you come in with observations from a number of remote servers, that may be behind other ISP's routers or bandwidth control equipment.

That's not to say you shouldn't use sites like if you're in the U.S., and can expect decent connections to their servers. After all, the more remote servers you test from, the better picture of your actual connectivity to various parts of the Internet you'll have. But slow apparent performance can also result from DNS lookup problems, AdBlock busters, Java or JavaScript execution problems in your machine/browser, and various 3rd party traffic monitors and user ID tracking bugs most commercial Web sites now use, to monitor and monetize their user traffic. and it's competitor test sites are just tools in identifying and sorting out issues with apparent slow load issues; they may not be entirely diagnostic in any specific instance, by themselves.
posted by paulsc at 6:13 AM on September 25, 2013

You can also run a trace route to get an idea of where the bottleneck is.
posted by COD at 6:17 AM on September 25, 2013

If the slowdown is on wireless connections, you should check to see if a neighbor has added a wireless network on the same channel. inSSIDer can show you the local WiFi environment.
posted by elmay at 6:28 AM on September 25, 2013

I like better than speedtest. Also, if you really want to get hardcore about it, you can try jperf, although I've never had any luck getting that to run.
posted by slogger at 6:37 AM on September 25, 2013

Also, iStumbler is great for all sorts of network analysis stuff. It's for Mac, so I'm not sure if there's a PC version of it somewhere (maybe inSSIDer mentioned above?).
posted by slogger at 6:39 AM on September 25, 2013

The ICSI Netalyzr will give you much more detailed technical results than a simple bandwidth test. Not everything they report as a problem necessarily is, but it's very thorough. Requires Java applets which these days is pretty awkward.
posted by Nelson at 8:23 AM on September 25, 2013

Remember that a lot of speed test sites measure in BYTES, but your ISP probably promotes their speed in BITS (because 10 Megabit speed sounds a whole lot better than 1.6 Megabyte speed).
posted by kuanes at 9:23 AM on September 25, 2013

You might be able to save a call by first restarting your router and cable modem. Assuming of course you have a router and cable modem.

If you're on wireless, you might give InSSIDer a shot, maybe someone moved in on your wireless channel.
posted by Sphinx at 4:53 PM on September 25, 2013

Response by poster: Thanks everyone. Some of this is over my head, but I've been trying some of the suggestions.

I have tried over the past 24 hours, as well as several other internet websites that test your speed. They all show that when traffic should be light, I'm getting 6-12 Mbps when I'm suppose to get 18. And at night when I'm trying to watch movies, I'm getting horrible readings, from 2-6 Mbps.

However, someone suggested that my cable company might have their own speed test, and they do. Problem is, it constantly shows the readings much higher than anywhere else. Usually from 14 to 20 Mbps. So that might be a problem and I'm not sure what to do about the discrepancy.

At least it's a start though. Thanks everyone.
posted by ratherbethedevil at 6:52 PM on September 26, 2013

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