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Too much bandwidth seems like a misnomer, but if you are not using it, why pay for it?

I'm running a Motorola router, 16 Mb internet with Time Warner. I have streaming from Netflix. I've got a wireless laptop, a Dell tower, an HP 8600Pro wireless printer and internet phone on Ethernet cable. Do I have too much bandwidth for these devices? They are not all on at the same time. Could I lower the speed of my internet service say from 60 to 30 Mb to save money?

In this excerpt from Answercast #90 I look at a system with a full 60 Mb of bandwidth that could easily be cut to save money.

Too much bandwidth?

Well, first of all, given that I personally am bandwidth challenged with only 3 Mb, I am really hard pressed to say that there is ever such a thing as too much bandwidth. I would be thrilled to have the bandwidth you have.

With that little bit of grousing out of the way... No, 60 is more than you need. 30 might even be more than you need.

How much bandwidth do you need?

Most streaming, from things like Netflix, are going to work just fine with even significantly less bandwidth than that.

I know that I can (and regularly do) have my phone, many machines, with maybe one or two machines streaming standard definition (not high definition but standard definition) video at the same time on my 3 Mb connection.

You get the idea there - that there's a lot that can be done with just 3 Mb.

More is great!

Now, do I wish I had more? Absolutely! Like I said, I can't stream high definition video. If I had your 30 Mb connection, I absolutely could.

So, my guess is: Yes. You can save yourself some money if you're not using all of that 60 Mb. Cutting it to 30 seems like a pretty obvious choice to me.

(Transcript lightly edited for readability.)

Article C6270 - January 23, 2013 « »

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Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

Not what you needed?

January 23, 2013 3:18 PM

Plus, the wireless printer doesn't take up any bandwidth since all that network traffic stays within the home network.

Alex Dow
January 25, 2013 9:41 AM

Aside from the difference in cost, the higher bandwidth will leave the trunk or main spine clearer for other traffic, as any given file etc will generally transit in a shorter time, whether this is a cumulative series of burst or a single (unlikely) "continuous" transmission.

Dan Gawarecki
January 25, 2013 10:02 AM

It would be nice if the router itself maintained some sort of metrics that one could interrogate to get at information like the reader is asking for. If not the router, then I would think there has to be monitoring software available, but suspect one would then have to funnel all traffic through the computer running the monitoring software (would, perhaps, that computer also have to have two network cards (NICs)- the first for incoming traffic, and the second for outgoing?).

Julian Hicks
January 25, 2013 10:28 AM

Leo, you're confusing us here with your use of mixed units! [Mb (Megabit] rates are about 10 times higher than equivalent MB (MegaByte) rates]. And no-one has 'mb' rates since that means millibit, which would be a thousandth of a bit persecond!
If you really DO have an 'only 3MB[yte]' connection, you actually have a 25-30Mb[it] connection.
This is not really much slower [in real world use] than the 60Mb capacity that the original questioner appears to have. [And faster than most ASDL links here in the UK - which are up to about 20Mb].
I'd be surprised if he really did have a 60MB link [as per your last paragraph].

Mark J
January 25, 2013 12:16 PM

Good point. The person who transcribes these talks sometimes misses details like this. It's fixed now.

Mike W
January 25, 2013 8:59 PM

I am running with Verizon fios. I just went to Results:
Download speed = 24.58 Mbps
Upload speed = 5.45 Mbps
Leo are you sure your download speed is only 3Mps?
If true then can you change to another ISP for a faster internet service?

Trust me when I say I have looked. My neighborhood is not wired for FiOS, and also not wired for cable, so those two options are out. DSL is an option, but because our neighborhood was one of the first to get DSL years ago, it now has some of the oldest operating DSL equipment and as a result there are no modems available. I'm pestering the telephone company to upgrade.

January 27, 2013 11:11 PM

There's a confusion. The question starts with OP saying "16" Mbps and at the end OP says cutting "60" to "30"...

Another confusion - megabit v/s megabyte speeds!

Here, in India, my mobile broadband connection speed is 3.1 mbps (that's what the company declares) but the actual throughput I get is a max of 300 kbps download and 150 kbps upload.

Where am I compared to the OP of this question, and am I having the same speed as Leo?

Old Man
April 18, 2013 7:40 AM


Just happened to read your reply about not having cable or FiOS. I feel your pain. For a long time I was stuck with dial-up. Cable was all around my neighborhood, but had skipped us. We were too far from the servers for DSL from either Bellevue or Renton. It took two years of waiting before cable was finally available. DSL finally arrived, but could not compare with cable.

With all the work and upgrading going on, I'm surprised they haven't gotten to your area yet. But then, your area may be serviced by a different cable company. I know the phone companies change between Redmond and Kirkland, so maybe the cable companies do, too.

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