Bits vs. Bytes – What your Internet provider isn’t telling you.

So today I was asked “Why aren’t I downloading at 10 megabytes per second! I’m paying for a 10 Mbps connect speed! The fastest I’ve ever seen 2.1 megabytes! What gives?”

Well, he was actually paying for 10 MegaBITS per second. In the world of computing, capitalization matters. 10 Mbps = 10 Megabits per second. 10 MBps = 10 Megabytes per second. In this case, he’s paying for 10 Mbps instead of MBps. So ok, you’re wondering what’s the difference? Well, a lot actually.

A bit is a digit. 1 or 0. A byte is a set of 8 digits grouped into one. 01100110. Now the bigger difference is that when you download something in bytes, it takes 8 times longer to download 1 byte as it does 1 bit (because you’re downloading 8 bits in one byte.) When you’re downloading something, you’re looking at your KiloBYTES per second or MegaBYTES per second. When you’re buying internet, you’re looking at the MegaBITS per second. Why do they do this change? Because “Bits” allows them to use a much higher number than “Bytes.” It’s a marketing tactic. 10 Megabits per second sounds a lot better than 1.25 Megabytes per second, right?

So, theoretically, to get the real number of MegaBYTES your 10MegaBIT connection can download, you take the number of MegaBITS and divide it by 8 to get the MegaBYTES you will be downloading at. In this case, 1.25 Megabytes is your theoretical average. Reaching 2.1 Megabytes on a 10Mbps connection as a download speed probably isn’t a far stretch either, since most companies will give you a speed boost if you’re downloading a larger file.

Wow… this whole bit has got me wanting a bite..

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