How important is upload speed?

I recently visited a friend who wanted me to take a look at their computer. They said that sending photos up to the cloud was taking forever. I get asked to look at friends computers a lot, and I bet it probably happens to you a lot too. It’s just what we techies go through, right?

One of the things I often check is internet speed. I test a few devices to make sure that one of them isn’t a lot slower. I was really surprised by what I saw. The download speed was out of this world, about 400Mbps down. That’s super amazing for someone in a condo in the suburbs. The upload speed was 12Mbps.

That’s right, 12.

I suspected a problem so I rebooted the router and all that stuff. Nothing changed. While I was working on other computer stuff, I got on hold with the cable company. After a while, I finally got someone.

This person told me that yes, my friend was supposed to have download speeds “up to 500Mbps.” And they did. I asked about upload speeds. The agent put me back on hold for, I am not kidding, 20 more minutes. They probably were hoping that I’d go away.

Finally, I got an answer. It wasn’t the answer I expected but it was an answer. According to the cable company, my friend’s package had upload speeds of 10Mbps. They were actually doing 20% better than advertised!

If my friend wanted to fix their uploading problem, they would need to change internet packages and the cost to get up to 50Mbps upload (about what most servers will take anyway) was triple what they were paying.

My suggestion was to look for another internet service provider. Hopefully AT&T will come into their neighborhood soon, because, seriously?

But this got me wondering.

How important is upload speed and why do cable companies offer such poor upload speeds?

Traditionally, people need a lot more download speed than upload speed. Most of your internet and streaming stuff is downloaded, not uploaded. Streaming video comes down to you, and so do web pages. The amount of information you send is very small compared to the amount of information you get.

Traditionally, cable companies have limited upload speeds in order to discourage people from running servers out of their houses. Residential internet is priced differently from business internet. It’s expected that a business will max out its connection all the time, while residential internet has peaks and valleys. Internet service providers have concentrated on adding enough download speed so that people don’t complain while they’re watching HBO GO. Upload speeds haven’t been as important, and by limiting upload speeds, it drives customers to more expensive packages if they really need that better speed.

This is changing, slowly. We spend more and more of our lives in the cloud and we upload videos and pictures a lot more frequently. Most folks still don’t need upload speeds higher than 50Mbps, and there’s still a lot more need for download speed than upload speed. But most providers are moving away from the really paltry speeds of days gone by.

Get the internet speeds you deserve

If you’re unhappy with your internet service provider, check to see if AT&T internet is available in your area. They’re more reliable and faster than most other options. If you really don’t use home internet and prefer your phone, check out the AT&T Unlimited Plus plan which gives you the freedom to do what you want on your phone all day long without worrying about overage fees.

To find out more about AT&T service, call Solid Signal at 888-233-7563 or fill out the form below!

About the Author

Stuart Sweet
Stuart Sweet is the editor-in-chief of The Solid Signal Blog and a "master plumber" at Signal Group, LLC. He is the author of over 8,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.