A study has confirmed what many of us already know – slow broadband is really, really, really irritating; to the point it has an observable physiological effect.
While it won’t be news to most – particularly those who rely on fast internet connections for work – a study report released last month by Ericsson of mobile broadband users states delays in web page and video load times caused participants’ heart rates to rise an average of 38 percent.
During the study, a total of 30 volunteers aged 18–52 were exposed to high, medium and no delays while they completed tasks. Brain activity, eye movements and pulse were recorded.
A six-second delay in video streaming caused stress levels to increase by a third; the equivalent of taking a math test and more stressful than standing at the edge of a virtual cliff.
Stress levels during the video tasks with zero delays averaged 13 percent above the pre-task baseline. Just a two second delay saw stress levels increase to 16%.
Re-buffering pause during video playback caused stress levels to further increase by 15 percentage points.
Where time-to-content delays were 6 seconds, half of the participants exhibited a 19 percent increase in stress levels.
An extract from the recent Ericsson mobility report – “The Stress Of Streaming Delays” – can be viewed here (PDF).
While the study by Ericsson focused on the mobile experience; slow, flaky connections are the bane of all broadband users.
Connections speeds are on average far faster than a decade ago, but the plague of the “World Wide Wait” remains. Some of this is due to more complex content and poor performance of the servers hosting it; but often the ISP/network is the culprit.
The issue can be attributable to what’s known as “high contention ratios”. This the ratio of users to the amount of available bandwidth resources. If an ISP tries to assign to many users to a certain amount of bandwidth; it can result in a very noticeable and sometimes crippling degradation of performance.
While more commonly affecting home users, business plans offered by some ISP’s can be also be impacted by this sort of stacking. That’s why when selecting an internet service provider, it’s important for a business to determine if the ISP offers low contention or better still, uncontended broadband through the use of dedicated equipment.
Home users should also do their research in order to find an ISP working on a low contention ratio in order to get more bang for their broadband bucks.