One of the first things a person typically does after getting high-speed Internet installed is to test its connection speed. You may find that your real-world speed is a lot lower than the advertised speed. Here are some reasons why.
This is like static on the radio. No matter how close you are to that radio tower, there will always be a little background noise preventing you from getting a perfectly clear signal.
If someone else on your local network is downloading something, that can slow you down. A poorly-secured wireless network (such as using WEP instead of WPA) can also be "piggybacked" by someone nearby with a laptop and a wireless card.
Heavy rainstorms can knock down telephone polls and communication towers, partially cutting off a network and forcing it to re-route previously distributed traffic into now-congested "lanes."
With DSL (Digital Subscriber Line) at least, your connection quality can be affected by noise on the line itself. This is measured in decibels. The more decibels, the worse the noise. There's also the signal-to-noise-ratio, with higher numbers being better.
This is not particularly common, but some viruses, trojans or other malware may attempt to use your Internet connection to store and transmit large amounts of questionable data, or to attack a website (known as a DDOS, Distributed Denial of Service).
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