Understanding Your Internet Connection: The Most Important Terms to Know

Written by Sejal Mehra
2 mins, 3 secs Read
Published On January 16, 2023

Many people use the internet every day without understanding the terms used to describe related things. In this article, we will be looking at some terms related to the internet that you should know.

Router, Modem, and Switch

You likely have heard these terms used as a handyman was installing the internet in your home or office. The modem is a device that connects to the internet. The router creates a network inside the home while also acting as a gateway to the network. A switch helps distribute this network connection to different devices in the home.

You can have multiple switches connected to a single router and many modern routers also come with multiple Ethernet ports that make them function as switches. They also have in-built modems so they can function as a single unit, especially for those with few devices requiring an Ethernet connection.

Speed and Bandwidth

Both of these terms are often used interchangeably, but they are different. Bandwidth refers to the total capacity available for use in data transmission (total data transmitted per unit time) while speed refers to how fast data can be transferred in a network (data transfer rate).

Ideally, you want internet speeds that are as high as possible as that is the number of internet services providers use when talking about your internet connection. Depending on the number of devices you have and how fast you want the internet to be, you can choose from a wide variety of speeds. For example, Gateway Fiber lets you pick from speeds ranging from 250 to 1000 Mbps to satisfy all your internet needs.


From the discussion above, you would assume that networks with a higher bandwidth would have a higher data transfer rate. That is not always the case due to latency. Latency refers to the delay data packets experience as they move through a network. Latency is often the reason for sluggish internet performance.

There are many causes of latency, but the most important one is physics. Data packets can only move through different materials at a given speed, whether passing through a copper or fiber optic cable. For every 60 or so miles of fiber optic cabling, you get an additional 0.5 millisecond in latency. This number is higher in other mediums.

Other contributing factors include the number of hops in the connection, the delay between packet transmission (jitter), packet size, and congestion.

IP Address

Every device that can connect to the internet is assigned an address for easy identification. This is known as an IP or Internet Protocol address. The IP address is always unique to the device, but it can change if it is dynamic or assigned permanently.


The Uniform Resource Locator is the web address of an internet page and file. You can use it to locate web pages or files on your computer from your browser. It typically looks like this: https://www.example.com or file://some-file-location.

You should now better understand the different terms used in relation to your internet connection. You might hear them once or multiple times, like URLs, for example.

Author: Sejal Mehra