Bits vs. Bytes: What we deliver and why it matters

I was approached recently by a property manager asking if the bandwidth we delivered was megaBITS or megaBYTES. It struck me as a little odd because I assumed, like everyone else, there wasn't really a difference. Bits...bytes...whatever. So, I went to a tech and even he got confused.

"It's bytes. No, wait! It's bits...I think."

Truth is, if we all had a gun to our heads, we would have answered correctly and definitely, but when we're not thinking of it, we confuse ourselves.

Internet marketer Ron Stauffer blogged about how they use this confusion to decieve their uneducated customers.

"I’ve heard people (who don’t know better) brag about their 'blazing' internet speeds of '20 megs' or more, which sounds impressive, but really isn’t. Most people who sign up for residential high-speed internet are thinking 'megabyte' when they say 'meg.'"

He's probably right. In my own experience of purchasing internet for my home, I've never thought of megs as bits or bytes, and I probably should have, because if I did, I'd understand the striking difference and how that affects the bottom dollar of my internet expenses.

"Some people can confuse the megabit (Mb) and the megabyte (MB). One byte (B) is comprised of eight bits (b). The distinction between megabytes in data storage and transfer contexts is the same as megabits and can lead to additional confusion. However, one megabyte per second (MBps) is equal to eight Mbps (megabits per second)," explains Elauwit's executive vice president, Bruce Sanders.

Well, no wonder we're all confused. It's different but also the same?

Stauffer says most consumers don't know that distinction, and even if they aren't concerned with the difference, it's still wrong.

"I think there really is something dishonest about the way the telecom companies are treating this - they’re counting on their customers to be ignorant, in order to sell their products at what sounds like a better deal than that it really is. If they weren’t banking on it, they would work hard to educate their customers on the difference," Stauffer writes.

So, in honor of being fully transparent, Elauwit's internet speeds are always megabits. We are transferring data not storing it, therefore it's megabits.

In the end, I'm not sure our residents really care so long as their internet "works" and works quickly. But, there is a difference between the two, and using the abbreviation "megs" is not enough to inform them of what they're actually paying for.

Here's hoping we all get a little more educated about what we're paying for and that our contemporaries will be as open as we are about what we deliver. Which, as it happens, is still blazing, super-charged, lightning fast internet...that's measured in megaBITES.

All News, NewsLindsey Johns