The Wall Street Journal studied the internet use of 53 of our journalists across the country, over a period of months, in coordination with researchers at Princeton University and the University of Chicago.
Our panelists used only a fraction of their available bandwidth to watch streaming services including Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and YouTube, even simultaneously. Quality didn’t improve much with higher speeds. Picture clarity was about the same. Videos didn’t launch quicker.
Broadband providers such as Comcast Corp., Charter Communications Inc. and AT&T Inc. are marketing speeds in the range of 250, 500 or even 1,000 megabits a second, often promising that streaming-video bingers will benefit. “Fast speeds for all of your shows,” declares one online ad from Comcast.
But for a typical household, the benefits of paying for more than 100 megabits a second are marginal at best, according to the researchers. That means many households are paying a premium for services they don’t need.
What follows is our evidence that you’re being oversold.
We upgraded our speed when we ditched cable, figuring why not, because the overall bill was lower. But except for being able to complete large downloads in less time — which I hardly ever do — I haven’t noticed any real-world difference.