You may not realize this, but when an internet plan advertises its speed, it usually only mentions the download speed. The upload speed can be completely different, and if it’s lower than the download speed it’s an asymmetrical plan. If the upload and download speeds are identical, then you’re looking at a symmetrical plan.
So why have this difference? The answer goes back to when home internet connections were new and the only way to connect was by dialing out on a phone line. The speeds were very slow at the time, even if all you wanted to look at was monochrome text on an online bulletin board. Internet speeds would slowly get faster as technology improved, but even early cable connections struggled with downloading images and highly compressed videos.
This is because bandwidth was very limited. Bandwidth measures how much information you can move through an internet connection, like 56.6 kilobits per second from an old phone line modem, 10 megabits per second from a cable connection, or today’s 1 gigabit per second from a fiber internet plan. Internet providers have a set amount of bandwidth they can provide to their customers, and so they have to decide how much to dedicate to uploads and how much to downloads.
Early home internet users usually spent most of their time looking at websites and downloading files, and few of them were creating their own websites or uploading their own files for others to download. Because of this, internet providers created asymmetrical plans for residential internet users, plans that had much faster download speeds than upload speeds. That was a good choice at the time, but times have changed.
Today’s internet users are doing a lot more uploading than before. Remote workers are much more common than they were in the 90s or 2000s, and they require a strong internet connection with an equally strong upload speed to deliver their projects on time. Content creators are making a living by writing blogs, producing videos, and creating art entirely online. Even regular internet users with offline jobs are uploading posts, photos, and videos captured on their phones to share with their friends. All of this means the demand for faster upload speeds is going up.
That’s why fiber internet providers not only offer fast, dedicated connections, they also make sure to give you symmetrical upload and download speeds. This boosts your upload speed by an incredible amount even if you already had a fast cable connection, because most cable providers still offer asymmetrical plans. Thanks to that, fiber internet connections are quickly taking off in cities that offer them.