Last updated: August 7, 2023

With so much of the normal day dependent on email, streaming services, and a variety of other apps, it is really noticeable when our connection to the Internet isn’t as fast or stable as it should be. The impact can be something as insignificant as a webpage that doesn’t load, but it could also be a navigation app failing to load directions in an unfamiliar city.

How do we measure our Internet connection?

There are 4 metrics that are typically used to measure the speed and stability of an Internet connection: download speed, upload speed, ping (or latency), and jitter.

— Download Speed and Upload Speed

Download speed and upload speed are the most common metrics that people use to measure an Internet connection. In fact, these measures are so common that ISP’s (Internet Service Providers) like Spectrum, Comcast, and AT&T price their services to consumers and businesses according to these speeds. These speeds indicate how quickly data can generally be downloaded or uploaded. The measurement used for speed in the case of bandwidth is Mbps, or Megabits per second. This means, that a connection with a download speed of 10 Mbps, under optimal conditions, will allow you to download 10 million bits every second.

* A quick note about bits and bytes…

It is important to note that there is a difference between bits and bytes, and therefore a difference between Mbps (Megabits per second) and MB/s (Megabytes per second). There are 8 bits in a byte, so a 10 Mbps connection does not mean that you can download a 10 MB file in 1 second. You must divide the Mbps measurement by 8 to determine how many MB can be transferred in a second. With a 10 Mbps download speed, the transfer rate is really 1.25 MB per second (10,000,000 ÷ 8 = 1,250,000).

— Ping/Latency

Ping or Latency refers to the time that it takes for a device to reach out to another server and receive a response. If your laptop pings, how long does it take for the web server hosting to reply back to your laptop. This time is usually measured in milliseconds (ms). If you run multiple ping tests, the pings will almost never be consistent in repeated tests due to all of the variations and connections in the path between the device and the server being pinged.

— Jitter

Data is meant to be delivered over an Internet connection in a consistent, steady stream of packets that your device then processes. Jitter is the measure of inconsistency in the stream of data packets. Like ping/latency, jitter is measured in milliseconds (ms). Jitter is an increasingly important measure since its effect is most noticeable in realtime applications such as video streaming (i.e. Netflix, YouTube, Hulu) or video conferencing (i.e. Zoom, Google Meet, MS Teams). In more asynchronous applications such as loading a webpage or working on a Google Doc, jitter has much less of an impact.

How do you find these metrics on your laptop or phone?

There are a large number of websites that will provide these statistics for an Internet connection by running tests between your device and their servers. Most of these sites rely on a service provided by Ookla or Cloudflare. Below is a list of sites that we recommend for running these tests:


A web browser with results loaded is a network speed testing tool provided by Netflix. This site is extremely simple to use. When you open in a web browser, the speed test begins as soon as the page loads. On the downside, only download speed is shown by default, and the site does not include the jitter measurement. You can see the upload speed and latency by pressing the button labeled “Show more info”.

2. (works best on desktop/laptop browsers)

A web browser with the website loaded is the official speed testing tool provided by Ookla. While the website works best in a desktop or laptop web browser, they do offer free apps for all of the major platforms (Windows, macOS, iOS, Android, etc.). When the website or app loads, Speedtest presents a large “Go” button to press to initiate the speed tests. Before initiating the test, Speedtest does show you which server will be used for the test and offers a way to switch that server. It can be useful to run speed tests against different servers to find a better average of your speed. On the downside, Speedtest is heavily ad-supported, so it is sometimes difficult to navigate the page among all of the ads. Similar to, Speedtest does not offer a measurement for jitter.

A web browser with the website loaded displaying the results of a network test

3. Cloudflare

A web browser with the website loaded and running a network test

As the other major network tool provider, Cloudflare offers its own tool for testing an Internet connection. Similar to, in order to initiate a test, you simply need to open the URL in your web browser and the testing begins. Unlike the other tools on this list, Cloudflare does provides all of the measurements described above, including jitter, and Cloudflare runs multiple tests using varying packet sizes to produce a more representative download and upload speed. Another useful feature is that Cloudflare provides an estimate of the quality of your connection by rating your connection in 3 categories: Video Streaming, Online Gaming, and Video Chatting.

A web browser with the website loaded showing network quality results

* My pride is fragile, so please take note that these pitiful results were taken from a test conducted over a cellular connection

The biggest downside to Cloudflare is that the results are very detailed and the amount of information presented in the results can be a bit overwhelming for the average user.

How do I know if these results are good, bad, or ugly?

While judging the actual quality of an Internet connection is subjective and largely depends on the perception of the experience, there are some standards that you can use to compare your results from a speed test against to find a general assessment.

The FCC (Federal Communications Commission) provides a Household Broadband Guide that shows various activities with their recommended minimum acceptable download speed in Mbps. For most activities, they recommend a minimum of 12 Mbps – 25 Mbps, and in cases where there are multiple high-demand activities running, greater than 25 Mbps.

Ookla provides a similar guide that shows a minimum speed of 2 Mbps for activities such as web browsing, email, and social media. Similar to the FCC, Ookla’s guide recommends 25 Mbps or greater for activities such as online gaming and 4K video streaming.