Is your internet speed up to speed? Here's how to test for yourself

Quick, free online tests can help you verify your internet speed compared to what your plan provides. (KOMO)

SEATTLE (KOMO) - Internet providers use increased "speed" as a big incentive to switch or upgrade your service.

But how do you know you're getting the speed you pay for?

When you hit speed bumps during a download and get stuck with that spinning circle to nowhere, you can call your internet company and wait for it to test the connection, or you can do it yourself. All you need is an internet speed test, available online for free. Comcast has one, so do CenturyLink and AT&T. There are also several independent test websites, including,,, and a mobile app from Ookla.

Click the start button and you've got a complete speed read in less than 30 seconds.

KOMO showed it to some CenturyLink and Comcast customers. They agreed to test their internet speeds for several days and record their results.

CenturyLink customer Linda Bianchi discovered she routinely exceeded the 40 megabits per second she pays for, with an average of 41.62 mbps.

The average speed for Dean Barnes and Yesh Naidu, both Comcast customers, fell between 6 to 15 megabits below the advertised rate. And Comcast tester Michael Amiethyst of Everett averaged barely 10 percent of the 105 mbps he pays for.

Amiethyst discovered his desktop, which is connected to his modem, got a much slower speed than did his laptop on Wi-Fi. Neither device was up to the expected speed.

"Maybe it's a problem with the modem," said Amiethyst. "I could try, you know, buying my own modem."

KOMO shared Amiethyst's results with Comcast. Sure enough, the personal equipment Amiethyst was using is too outdated to handle the high-speed Xfinity service he purchased. Comcast confirmed its signal was not the problem.

Old equipment can really put on the brakes. If your speed is sub-par, an updated modem or router can accelerate your downloads. Other factors, like bad router location, and crowded corners, walls and basements can weaken your signal, even with an ethernet extension.

Comcast also contacted Barnes and Naidu, who had slower-than-promised service, to help them identify their speed fluctuations. Barnes contacted KOMO to report he'd be getting an updated router, the suspected cause of his speed fluctuations.

As for our other speed testers, CenturyLink customers Sandy and Rich in rural Pierce County are trapped by geography. Their whole community is stuck with low speed because the CenturyLink service to their area is not updated.

Joe Schlicta discovered his slow service is because of the internet plan he has with Comcast. CenturyLink customer David Isreal learned he, too, was getting the exact speed his plan provided.

"I've never tested it before," Israel explained.

Internet companies emphasize there are many factors that can cause your service to be slow, including time of day, your router frequency, and even construction materials, like brick and concrete that might be used for the outer walls of your building.

They also acknowledge that regardless of what plan you buy, all promised speeds are "up to" speeds. There is no guaranteed minimum.

Internet and broadband service are a top complaint to the Federal Communications Commission. If you're consistently getting slow internet service and determine the problem is not in your router, modem or other equipment, be sure to contact your internet company. You might want to switch plans, or file complaint with the FCC.

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