Five Questions You Should Ask about Internet Speed and Bursting


Art Reisman

By Art Reisman, CTO, APconnections

Editor’s Note: With consumers up in arms about net neutrality, they should also be asking their ISPs for some truth in advertising when it comes their Internet speed and the specifics concerning how and when bursting occurs.

With all the talk of net neutrality and deep packet inspection, we thought it was time to revisit the illusion created by providers offering “burstable” Internet speeds.

What is a burstable Internet speed? Well, it’s a common trick used by providers that lets you temporarily enjoy their highest speed, but then after a certain time period or after a bandwidth quota is reached, you automatically get knocked down  to a slower speed.

Generally, your provider leaves the specifics of when this bursting takes place out of their standard literature.  Instead, they will likely cite a best-case number when marketing their service. When bursting is mentioned, if ever, it is likely done in the fine print.

But, this doesn’t mean that there aren’t ways to hold your ISP accountable. Below are some questions that you should ask your Internet service provider to find out exactly what you are paying for.

  1. Is the speed advertised in their marketing literature available all the time, or is that a best-case speed (or burst) that you may or may not achieve on a regular basis?
  2. Do you get charged, penalized, or black-listed for using this higher speed?
  3. How long can you burst for? For example, is a burst one second, 10 seconds, or 10 hours at a time?
  4. Can you get exactly how this bursting feature works in writing?
  5. Can you trade in the bursting feature for a guaranteed sustained top speed that is always on and not considered bursting?

While we can’t promise that these questions will always elicit an upfront, honest and informed response, they’re a step in the right direction. For a more in depth article on the subject and business behind “bursting” you should also  check out Bursting Is for the Birds.

3 Responses to “Five Questions You Should Ask about Internet Speed and Bursting”

  1. Is Your ISP Throttling Your Bandwidth? « NetEqualizer News Blog Says:

    […] slow you down if you persist at downloading is another trick ISPs can use. Sometimes they call this burst speed, which can mean speeds being increased up to five megabits, and they make this sort of behavior […]

  2. Five More Tips on Testing Your Internet Speed « NetEqualizer News Blog Says:

    […] offered some tips both on speeding up your Internet connection as well as questions you should ask your provider. Here are some additional tips on how to fairly test your Internet […]

  3. Internet Users Bill of rights « NetEqualizer News Blog Says:

    […] slow you down if you persist at downloading is another trick ISPs can use. Sometimes they call this burst speed, which can mean speeds being increased up to five megabits, and they make this sort of behavior […]


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