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Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What's this website all about?

 

Q: What is broadband?

Q: How does bandwidth and latency relate to broadband speed?

Q: Why is broadband important?

Q: How is broadband service delivered to homes and businesses?

Q: Who decides who delivers service to my home?

Q: What’s the speed test?

 

Q: Do I need any special software on my computer to run the speed test?

Q: If I take the test, am I risking a virus, spyware, or other computer problems?

Q: Do I have to provide my address?

Q: Why doesn’t the speed test work for me?

Q: What do my speed results mean?

Q: Can I do anything to improve my speed test results?

Q: Can I take the speed test more than once? And, why am I getting different results?

 

Q: Who sponsors and runs this Web site?

Q. How did this project begin?

Q: How long will this project take?

Q: How much will it cost and how is it being paid for?

 

Q: Okay, better broadband sounds good to me. How can I help?

Q: I already have broadband in my home. Why should I get involved?

Q: What's this website all about?

A: The New York State Office of Cyber Security (OCS) is partnering with the Center for Technology in Government at the University at Albany – SUNY to independently test the speed of broadband service available to New York State residents. CTG will collect, analyze, and report the results to OCS, who is deploying state-of-the-art geographic information systems (GIS) to create a clear and accurate broadband map of where and what level of broadband is available across the state, which will help drive policy decisions and future funding.

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Q: What is broadband?

A: Broadband is often referred to as high speed Internet, as opposed to what most Americans probably experienced the first time they used the Internet at home, dial-up access. Bandwidth—the amount of data (text, pictures, and other digital information) that can be moved in a given period of time—for dial-up connections is fairly limited. That “narrowband” speed works fine for displaying text and some images in your Web browser, but viewing animations, interacting with rich content, streaming audio or video, and enjoying other features is frustratingly slow or impossible. These new capabilities require faster connections, now commonly called broadband or high-speed Internet.

Broadband speeds are measured in megabits per second and the connections are hundreds of kilohertz wide. In the US, the Federal Communications Commission regulates communications and defines broadband service as data transmission speeds exceeding 768 kilobits per second (Kbps) in at least one direction. Generally, NY residents bring data into their homes (download) much faster than they can send data into the world (upload).

Aside from greater speed, broadband differs from dial-up because it does not monopolize the telephone line. With dial-up service, you cannot talk on the telephone while you surf the Web. Broadband lets you do both at the same time.

Finally, broadband is always “on.” You don’t need to spend time and energy getting "connected" to the Internet. You simply start up your browser (Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome, Safari, etc.) and start working or playing.

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Q: How does bandwidth and latency relate to broadband speed?

A: Bandwidth refers to the capacity of a connection to deliver information (measured in bits per second). The broadband speed of your connection can never be faster than its bandwidth capacity. In fact, because bandwidth varies across the various "pipelines" that make up the Internet, your speed cannot be faster than the lowest bandwidth "pipe." That’s usually the connection that hooks directly to your home—commonly called the "last mile."

Latency is the amount of time it takes for a bunch of information (a packet) to travel from its origin to its destination. Although this cannot be greater than your bandwidth, it is usually far slower than that. Many factors can slow your speed, from viruses to spyware to network software to the current number of users to other drags on performance.

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Q: Why is broadband important?

A: High-speed Internet service makes possible videoconferencing, Internet phone (VoIP), streaming media, interactivity, and real-time online consultation. Broadband allows faster and richer interactions between citizens and government, businesses and customers, educators and students, libraries and patrons, and families and friends. Broadband empowers New York residents to launch businesses, work from home, expand their studies, pay bills, conduct research, complete homework, play games and be entertained, exchange e-mails or photos, even stay connected through social networks like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

By improving communication and the flow of information, broadband creates jobs, decreases health care costs, reduces miles driven and fossil fuels consumed, expands consumer choices, improves competition, and entertains more people for less cost. It is the backbone of a high skill, high tech economy, and can lead to a better life for everyone in New York State.

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Q: How is broadband service delivered to homes and businesses?

A: Broadband can be delivered by several different types of technology: digital subscriber line (DSL), cable modems, fixed wireless, broadband over power lines (BPL), Fiber-To-The-Home (FTTH), satellite, and others. Each technology has advantages and disadvantages—in the best case scenario, users would have the ability to choose which delivery technology best suits their needs from a competitive marketplace of multiple providers.

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Q: Who decides who delivers service to my home?

A: You choose among whatever broadband services are available in your neighborhood. Unfortunately, not all areas of New York have access to broadband. Ideally, you should have the broadest range of choices at the best possible prices. To learn more about your choices, type “Internet service provider” and your local town into your favorite Internet search engine. To help get the best possible service for you, read through Broadband Made Simple: Tips for Getting the Speed You Need.

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Q: What’s the speed test?

A: The speed test measures the time it takes for your computer to download (receive) and upload (send) information. It’s quick, easy, and safe. Because numerous, often temporary factors affect broadband speed, you may want to take the test more than once, at different dates and times. The average of those readings will present the most reliable overall measure of your connection.

Q: Do I need any special software on my computer to run the speed test?

In order to run the speed test, you must have Java Runtime Environment (version 1.4.2 or later) installed on your computer. When you click on the "Run Internet Speed Test" button, if you do not have this software, a link will be displayed that will allow you to download it for free.

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Q: If I take the test, am I risking a virus, spyware, or other computer problems?

A: No. Running the speed test poses no risk of spyware or viruses being downloaded to your computer.

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Q: Do I have to provide my address?

A: The purpose of the speed test is to map Internet speeds at specific locations in New York State. Including the address from which you are accessing the test is therefore essential to our data analysis. Knowing that Internet security is of utmost importance, we have designed our systems to protect your privacy. For more information, see our privacy policy.

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Q: Why doesn’t the speed test work for me?

A: The most likely problem is that your computer lacks the proper software. The speed test requires Flash, a popular and safe plugin in the majority of browsers

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Q: What do my speed results mean?

A: Your results are expressed in megabits per second (Mbps), which is a measure of information flow or data transfer. A higher bandwidth Internet connection allows users to download and upload much larger amounts of data in less time. The National Broadband Plan has set a goal that by 2020, "At least 100 million U.S. homes should have affordable access to actual download speeds of at least 100 megabits per second and actual upload speeds of at least 50 megabits per second."

The table (sorted by lowest to highest speed) shows you on average how much speed or Kbps/Mbps you can expect to receive from different types of internet services.

Type of Service Description Typical Speed
Dial-up/Modem Regular telephone line & Internet modem 56 to 2400 kilobits/sec (Kbps)
ISDN (Integrated Services Digital Network) Dedicated telephone line and router; allows user to send voice, video and data over digital telephone lines or normal telephone wires 64 to128 Kbps
DSL (Digital Subscriber Line) Telephone line and DSL modem 128 Kbps to 8 Mbps (typically 1.5 Mbps)
Satellite Newer versions have two-way satellite access 150 Kbps to 1.2 Mbps
Cable Cable modem and cable line 512 Kbps to 20 Mbps
3G Wireless Common cell service Up to 14 Mbps (typically 1.5 Mbps)
T1 Special T1 lines and equipment (DSU/CSU and router) are required 1.544 Mbps
4G Wireless Advanced cell service 100 to 1000 Mbps
OC-3 Typically used for large companies 155.52 Mbps

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Q: Why are my results different from what I expected? And, can I do anything to improve my speed test results?

A: A number of factors can slow your speed, regardless of the capacity of your service. Actual speeds are impacted by many factors beyond the technical capabilities of the broadband provider’s infrastructure, including the time of day, the number of users online at that time, the capacity of the customer’s equipment including the modem, and other factors.

If you are interested in learning more and in attempting some broadband speed troubleshooting of your own, consult CTG’s Factors Affecting Your Speed.

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Q: Can I take the speed test more than once? And, why am I getting different results?

A. Yes. To get a reliable indication of your actual connection speed it’s best to take the test several times at different times during the day or week.

You might notice that your connection speed decreases during the evenings and weekends, when more people are using the Internet through residential connections. Every time you connect to the Internet, your signal can travel a different path from its source to your computer. The number of “hops” the speed test takes to get from its source to your home can affect your connection speed, and that number could change each time you run the test.

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Q: Who sponsors and runs this Web site?

A: The Center for Technology in Government (CTG) at the University at Albany - SUNY is hosting this website in partnership with the New York State Office of Cyber Security (OCS).

CTG is an applied research center whose partnership projects have helped state, local, and federal agencies increase productivity and coordination, reduce costs, enhance quality, and deliver better services to citizens and businesses. CTG is independently collecting, analyzing, and reporting the speed test results to OCS. The results will be used by OSC to create a NYS broadband map.

OCS is the lead agency in New York for statewide coordination of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) resources as well as mapping of critical infrastructure.

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Q. How did this project begin?

In October 2009, New York State was awarded $2.5 million in funding from the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (Recovery Act) for broadband mapping and planning activities by the U.S. Department of Commerce's National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA).

As part of this funding, Governor David Paterson designated OCS to map the state’s current broadband resources. To do so, OCS began by collecting from broadband service providers the location, technology (e.g., DSL, cable, fiber, wireless), and advertised speed of broadband available in New York State. However, because the advertised speed can differ from actual speed for various reasons, accurate broadband mapping also requires measures of the actual speeds as delivered to consumers in New York State.

To do so, OCS partnered with the Center for Technology in Government (CTG) at the University at Albany - SUNY to test the speed of broadband service available to residents through hosting this website.

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Q: How long will this project take?

A: Surveying, mapping, and improving New York State’s broadband connections is an ongoing effort engaging government, businesses, and private citizens. The initial broadband data collection and mapping activities, based in part on data collected via this website, will continue through 2014.

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Q: How much will it cost and how is it being paid for?

A: New York State was awarded $2.5 million in American Reinvestment and Recovery Act funding for a variety of broadband mapping and planning activities, of which the speed test is one.

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Q: Okay, better broadband sounds good to me. How can I help?

A. There are two ways you can help. First, please take the speed test at least once. If you can, take it a couple times at different times and dates to provide an average speed from your location. Secondly, please invite all your New York friends, neighbors, family to do the same. We’ve made it easy to spread the word, just check out our Share page

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Q: I already have broadband in my home. Why should I get involved?

A: Your access to broadband doesn’t necessarily mean that you are getting the best possible and most useful connection speeds. The speed test will give you an accurate measure of the service you are actually receiving, and allow that information to be included in the statewide analysis.

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