Performance

What Makes Internet Service Feel Fast?

Chart by Visualizer

When it comes to internet speed, a few factors come into play. Most internet providers focus solely on bandwidth (Megabits-per-second, or Mbps), because it is the simplest metric to advertise. In addition to offering high bandwidth, JackRabbit also provides Managed Mesh WiFi to ensure consistent, thorough WiFi performance across the home. We also use a Smart Queue Management system to deliver low latency connectivity – even when your connection is under high load (Bufferbloat). Achieving optimal performance in these multiple domains is the key to an internet connection that feels fast, stable, and responsive.

Bandwidth

Bandwidth is the maximum amount of data transmitted over an internet connection in a given amount of time. Usually this is measured in Megabits-per-second.

Surprisingly, bandwidth does not impact performance as much as advertisers would lead us to believe. Here is an excerpt from the recent research paper Understanding the Metrics of Internet Broadband Access: How Much Is Enough?

Above about 20 mb/s, adding more speed does not improve the load time. The limit on the load time is the latency to the servers providing the elements of the web page.

Understanding the Metrics of Internet Broadband Access: How Much Is Enough?

Bandwidth primarily impacts how long it takes to download large single files (game release downloads, video editing files). Performance for everything else we do day-to-day on the internet (video streaming, VoIP, conference calling) – all comes down to Latency, and Latency under Load (bufferbloat).

Latency

Latency is the round-trip delay time. Put simply, it is the time it takes for a message sent from your internet-connected device to reach its destination, plus the time it takes to receive a response back.

Latency impacts internet performance much more than bandwidth alone. A user with a low-latency connection (0-100ms) will experience the internet as being much faster than someone with a high-latency connection (100-600ms), even when the low-latency plan offers less bandwidth (Mbps).

Web page load time is largely determined not by throughput, but by two other factors: how long a network round-trip takes, and how many network round-trips are required.

Broadband Internet Technical Advisory Group - Latency Explained

Many common internet tasks require a connection with low latency (<100ms):

  • Live video conferencing
    • Zoom, Skype, Teams, Tele-medicine
  • Voice over internet protocol (VoIP)
    • WiFi Calling, MagicJack, Ooma
  • Online video games
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Responsiveness / Bufferbloat

When we install service for new customers – they often express that Netflix, web browsing, and gaming feel faster with JackRabbit than with their previous ISP. We often see Netflix video loading times go from 30 seconds to 3 seconds, even in cases where their previous ISP offered comparable bandwidth. This is due to a phenomena called Bufferbloat.

Bufferbloat is the undesirable latency that results from network equipment buffering too much data. Connections with high Bufferbloat have lower perceived responsiveness. Many of us take it for granted that it is “normal” for a video call to stutter or disconnect when someone else on the same home network is watching a 4K video. That is actually a symptom of Bufferbloat.

Cable and DSL internet services suffer from significant Bufferbloat, which can make these connections feel slow even when speed tests show normal bandwidth (Mbps).

JackRabbit uses a Smart Queue Management (SQM) system to keep latency and bufferbloat as low as possible. This provides a more streamlined internet experience for our customers. With SQM, your WiFi calls, zoom calls, and online games are prioritized over large file downloads or other so-called “bulk” tasks occurring in the background. SQM provides a more responsive and “snappy” end-user internet experience than you would find from Satellite Internet, Cable Internet, or in some cases, even fiber.

JackRabbit developed its own Smart Queue Management system for ISPs, releasing it as free and open-source software. Our SQM platform has now been deployed by ISPs around the world, with tens of thousands of internet users benefiting from its performance benefits.

In recent years, Bufferbloat, SQM, and responsiveness have become recognized as crucial for understanding and improving internet performance. Here are some excerpts from the Broadband Internet Technical Advisory Group’s recent paper Latency Explained:

Queue management techniques such as Active Queue Management are available that will reduce bufferbloat in network bottleneck equipment by triggering applications to reduce the amount of queuing delay that they cause. This is not theoretical; AQM has been proven to work at scale in DOCSIS and other networks.

The less delay that a network or application has, the more “responsive” a service will feel to an end user. The more delay (or lag), the worse it will feel.

Critically, however, reducing delay meaningfully improves all existing user applications.

In addition, it is also important to have a consistently responsive service where delay stays consistently low no matter how heavily utilized a user’s Internet connection may be and no matter what mix of applications are being used. This might seem like an unreasonable demand — expecting a network to be able to provide consistently low delay even under heavy load — but, as this report shows, this is in fact possible with today’s technology.

Broadband Internet Technical Advisory Group - Latency Explained

Find out if you experience Bufferbloat on your home internet connection using the Waveform Bufferbloat Test.

Satellite Internet

Cable Internet

JackRabbit

Whole-Home WiFi

Competing ISPs leave WiFi up to the end user to figure out on their own. ISPs typically treat connectivity issues past their modem (such as with your WiFi router) as outside the scope of their responsibility.

We take a more proactive approach – providing our customers managed Mesh WiFi at no additional monthly cost. This allows us to remotely troubleshoot WiFi performance issues, and to ensure thorough WiFi coverage across every room of your home.