You thought AT&T was screwing unsuspecting customers into paying obscene bandwidth bills with ridiculous claims of stuff you can't do? Time Warner says you can't have 3 people on the internet without at least 15Mbps. Oh, it gets worse.
According to Time Warner, unless you have at least 7Mbps internet, you can't download music, or even "Windows Media Player software." And you need their most expensive plan for "Super Fast Shopping Concert Tickets & Online Auctions" and watching videos. No wonder I couldn't snag Momofuku Ko reservations when I still had Time Warner!
And then there's Cox. By being vague, they're a little less bad, but still perpetuating the idea you can't share photos or download music without at least a 10Mbps connection. And WTF is PowerBoost? (
DOCSIS 3.0?) Update: Okay, it's not some marketing name for DOCSIS 3.0, but a tech Cox licenses from Comcast to give a little extra bandwidth for part of a download, if the tubes are clear.
Verizon is the least offensive here—while they still say you need at 7.1Mbps for streaming video, their other claims aren't totally unreasonable, and just below the chart they give you access to what the bandwidth translates to in real-world experience at each tier, like that a 50MB album would take over 6 minutes to download with their 1Mbps connection, so you see what you're paying for.
Here's AT&T's ridiculous chart again, which says you need at least 3Mbps to use Facebook, and at least 18Mbps to download movies.
Comcast doesn't merit going into the wall of shame, surprisingly, since they just show you how fast stuff downloads at different (theoretical) speeds, so there's no real fear-mongering involved.
The bottom line is that you have to know your own internet habits and what kind of speed you really need—don't let your prospective ISP scare you into you paying for more bandwidth you'd actually use. Personally, I'm pretty comfortable with around 20Mbps down, and 10 up. But six is definitely tolerable, and I'd wager for most people, unless you've got a bunch of people watching Netflix and downloading music and playing games all at once (like me).
Image via YsteJam Photography/Flickr