A mother and daughter using a computer together

What Internet Speed Do You Need for Cord Cutting?


One of the most popular questions we get is about Internet speed. A common trick ISPs use on cord cutters is telling them they need a crazy fast Internet speed to stream video. (Often at a crazy high price tag.)

What speed do you need for an HD stream?

Let’s take a look at what Netflix requires to stream HD video per stream. According to the Netflix website you need 5 Mbps down for each HD stream, which means if you want to stream two HD streams at once you need 10 Mbps.

The following is what Hulu recommends for each stream:

  • 720p HD:3 Mbps
  • 1080p HD:6 Mbps
  • 4K Ultra HD:13 Mbps

So if you wanted to stream two 1080p streams at the same time on Hulu you would need 12 Mbps down.

What about other web needs?

Surfing the web on sites such as Facebook can work on very slow connections. I would not worry about taking into account basic daily web surfing when looking at what Internet speed to get.

What speed do you really need?

Everyone has different needs. A single person living alone who only streams one stream at a time has a lower speed need than a family of six.

My suggestion is to add up how many streams you want at once and multiply it by 5 and then double it. So if you want two HD streams at once that would be 10 Mbps down but I recommend doubling that and getting 20 Mbps down so you can stream and surf without issues.

Again add up the number of streams you want at the same time. After you get that number multiply it by five and then take that number and multiply it by two. That should give you a good rule of thumb on what speed you need. (Remember many services limit the number of streams you can have at once.)

What if you are still having buffering issues?

If you are meeting our recommended speeds but are still seeing buffering and other streaming issues, we can help. Typically they are caused by issues in your home network or issues at the streaming service. Check out our guide on ways to fix buffering and other streaming issues for help.

Lastly

Fast Internet speeds are great! Just don’t break the bank paying for a faster speed than you need.

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  • Chris K.

    In my personal experience, your own download speed from your ISP may have nothing to do with what your ISP is getting from content providers. When I had Mediacom cable internet, I regularly had 20-30Mbps test speeds. But we couldn’t stream anything over 30 minutes without at least one buffering hiccup. When I changed to Centurylink DSL, all they offered in my neighborhood was 5Mbps. But every major service streamed flawlessly at 720P. That told me two things… that there was a backbone problem somewhere in Mediacom’s infrastructure, and that I was overpaying for how I could actually use the internet.

    But because of the way internet infrastructure has been built, and the number of 20+ year old lines run throughout the US, everyone might have different results from town to town, neighborhood to neighborhood, even house to house.

  • Kevin Johnson

    My biggest question is why Roku and/or individual apps don’t have a tool to test the speeds it’s receiving. All that content providers’ tech support ever blame it on is the consumer’s network and can’t back it up with empirical data. When it’s only one particular app that’s acting up (on multiple devices), that tells me it’s on their side. I currently have 24 Mbps U-Verse Internet and the new Google Wi-fi router with no mesh points and a small house. Hulu and WatchESPN are my two biggest problems, while SlingTV, Netflix, MLBTV, FOXSMW, FX, HBOGO, NFL Sunday Ticket, and myriad other apps work flawlessly every time.

    • John Bell

      Hi Kevin. I periodically check my internet speeds from my PC and mobile devices via speedtest.net. Roku also has an app that tests it’s internet speed.

      • Kevin Johnson

        Thanks, but doesn’t speedtest.net only test to the gateway? I would like an app that tests Internet to the device. What is the the Roku app name?

        • Debra Dresler

          So, how can I check the actual download speed to my computer. I know it can’t be as high as Ookla speed test says: 100mbps from Comcast in the St. Paul, MN area.

          • Kevin Johnson

            Hulu support has recommended speedof.me to test speeds to a nearby laptop/smartphone. My results vary wildly, but I’m usually testing during prime hours. Try it early in the morning for best results. I would like to see a tool for Roku and other streaming devices to help us all troubleshoot issues…

  • Jimmy Roche

    So I have 300 kbps speed internet and I still attempt to stream. (Fastest plan available in the area)

  • grinlap

    Before you decide on the speed you need check your current speed. Do
    this test around 8:30 pm because this may give you a very different
    result than doing it in the afternoon. The so called Netflix hours are
    from around 7:30 pm to maybe 10:30 pm. Everyone in your neighborhood may
    be streaming during those hours and your service will be slowed; maybe a
    lot. In my case, where the ISP admits to a problem, my speed goes from
    the 10Mbps I pay for to as low as 3-4Mbps.

    Another consideration
    is that even though Netflix recommends 5Mbps to stream one channel it
    and many other services do adaptive streaming. They can measure your
    connection speed from the first batch of content they send and will
    adjust the compression of the stream to match your speed. This might
    take several tries (batches) indicated by a few buffering pauses at the
    start but it should stop buffering soon unless you have some other
    problem. The resulting picture may have some quality issues if you have a
    really slow connection but it does work. My neighbor streams Netflix
    with a 1.5Mbps connection and since he’s not a discriminating viewer is
    none the wiser.

  • horror hideout

    That has been our biggest issue. When we lived in town we had a very good 29.95 plan giving us 15mb down. We got Sling TV and started saving a ton of money over Dish network. However, then we moved to the country. We took a 20mb down plan. At $80 a month alone. And I can tell you it is not nearly as strong as the in city internet. Sling was just unusable. We switched to PS Vue. And it is quite a bit better. But, we coughed up all the savings over Dish because the cost of the internet. They offer a 10mb down plan but, it’s only $10 cheaper.

  • Richard smith

    I had no problems with 3 hd streams at 15 mbps with than Brighthouse. Now with Spectrum I get 60 at the same price, now I can stream 4k.

  • Bob Farrace

    Can you provide a link to your guide on ways to fix buffering and other streaming issues, mentioned in the post?