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It’s happened on more than one occasion: I’m in the middle of a video call when the dreaded rainbow wheel starts spinning on my screen. The page is having trouble loading. My face is awkwardly frozen in time for all to see. The audio cuts in and out. 

“Something’s wrong with the Internet!” I shout at my husband, who’s in the room next door, also working from home. I hear a deep, exasperated groan. He informs me that he’s going to restart the router. Again. 

This year millions of people fled their non-pandemic-friendly offices to work from home in what will likely be remembered as the Great Migration from traditional corporate life. Overnight, homes became coworking spaces, schools, and gyms. At any given moment, people living under the same roof could be presenting a quarterly report, pitching a new product, taking a midterm exam, and streaming a spin class. All that constant digital activity takes a lot of Internet power to happen simultaneously and seamlessly. 

So how can people accurately determine the right bandwidth for their needs at home? “The number of people in the household is a starting point,” says Kendall Hartley, an educational technology professor at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. “Internet service providers (ISPs) can tell you how much bandwidth is required to download a movie or watch streaming TV. However, they are generally quoting a figure that assumes everyone in the household is watching the same program. And my kids do not share my interest in documentaries!” 

Although bandwidth needs vary by household, here Hartley provides some helpful guidelines to follow when working with an ISP like Verizon on gig speed. Fios’s Gigabit Connection rivals gigabit Internet service from other providers; Verizon Fios Home Internet is 100 percent fiber-optic, which means less bottlenecks, slowdowns, and interference—even when the whole family is logged on at once.

For the Cord Cutters

If you’ve opted out of traditional cable and satellite TV services, you are likely using a good portion of your allotted bandwidth to stream videos from Netflix, YouTube TV, or similar providers. “Those services are providing ever better quality pictures, which translates into increased data use,” Hartley explains. “Ultra-high definition video streams can consume the equivalent of a Blu-ray DVD, approximately 4 gigabytes every hour.” 

For the Office Expats

Online conferencing platforms, like Zoom and Google Meet, are relatively new to many households. “All the face-to-face meetings that moved online have contributed to problems for many professionals,” says Hartley. “The data usage can vary widely as the software will adjust to the bandwidth and conditions of the connection. One gigabyte per hour is a reasonable estimate.”

For the Gamers 

If gamers are in the house, this will also contribute to substantial data use. “A recent download from the popular game Destiny can set your household data budget back by over 150 gigabytes,” says Hartley. “That’s 15 percent of my current 1 terabyte (1,000 gigabytes) plan. It all adds up.” 

Since Verizon Fios provides customers with an online dashboard to track how much bandwidth they’re using on a daily basis, it pays to take advantage of those tools to help determine where you’re falling short. (The Data Hub even allows you to break down usage by the person and use.) Just knowing where to start is the first step. “Some view Internet bandwidth as a leisure or entertainment expense,” says Hartley. “However, very few personal or work-related tasks can now be conducted without a stable and sizable Internet connection. It’s a necessity.”