What is Internet Latency and Why It Matters

Fiber-to-the-door to every home and business in Cedar Falls and paths to three highly connected internet backbone networks ensures CFU's broadband network provides consistent, low latency and increased bandwidth.

Bandwidth has long been used to quantify internet speed. It is commonly used to differentiate among providers and internet service tiers. Bandwidth, however, is a measurement of capacity whereas latency is a true measurement of speed.

"Bandwidth is an important factor when selecting internet providers," says Charles Dostale, CFU Director of Communication Services and Chief Technology Officer. "However, latency is just as important and can greatly impact user experience."

Bandwidth is the capacity of data that can be downloaded at one time. Latency is the speed at which a packet of data can be delivered. Both can contribute to how quickly your video plays or a webpage loads. 

"It can be helpful to think of the internet as a source of water and your device is a faucet. When you turn on your faucet to get a glass of water, there are many factors contributing to the time it takes to fill the glass," says Charles. 

"Your bandwidth in this analogy is the size of the pipe bringing water to your house. The larger the pipe, the more capacity you have. However, if the water source is really far away or the infrastructure is not well maintained, this may impact the time it takes the water to get to your glass. The amount of time it takes for a drop of water to get from the source to your glass is latency."

When there are few obstacles, data can arrive more quickly resulting in lower latency. This means when you click a link or push a button in an online video game, there is a quicker reaction. 

"There are many factors when it comes to how quickly your device reacts to your click online," says Charles. "At CFU it is our job to provide top of the line equipment on our end and limit the number of delays so our customers can enjoy the best user experience."