Broadband 101: Terms to Know

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Basic Terms You Should Know

Broadband internet connection: the FCC currently defines broadband internet as a connection with at least a 25 Mbps download speed and a 3 Mbps upload speed.

Download speed: the speed at which data is being sent from the Internet to your computer

Internet Service Provider (ISP): the company that provides you with access to the internet.

Mbps: An abbreviation that stands for megabits per second. It is a measure of the speed and capacity of network connection. One megabit is equal to 1 million bits. A megabit should not be confused with a megabyte. Bytes measure file sizes. Bits measure the capacity of a network connection.

Throttling: the intentional slowing of internet connection speeds by an ISP.

Upload speed: the speed at which your computer is sending data to the Internet

Types of Broadband Connections

Digital Subscriber Line (DSL): Uses traditional copper telephone lines to connect to the Internet. DSL technology allows for faster transmission of data using copper telephone lines.

Cable modem: Device that enables cable operators to provide an Internet connection using coaxial cables.

Fiber optic: Lines of optically pure glass that carry digital information over long distances. The glass fibers are about the diameter of a human hair. Data can be transmitted on fiber optic lines at much faster speeds compared to DSL or cable modems.

Fixed wireless: Uses a radio link between to connect to the Internet. Fixed wireless connections often require direct line-of-sight between the wireless transmitter and receiver.

What Does Speed Get You?

So what kind of internet service do you need? Well, that really depends on what you’re doing on the internet and how many devices are using the connection at the same time.  The FCC Household Broadband Guide defines basic service as having speeds of 1 to 2 Mbps, medium service with speeds of 6 to 15 Mbps, and advanced service with speeds greater than 15 Mbps.

The kind of service you have affects what you can do online. Light household use is basic functions: email, web surfing and basic streaming video.  Moderate household use includes all the basic functions plus one high-demand application, so EITHER streaming HD, video conferencing, or online gaming.  High household use includes all the basic functions plus more than one high demand application running at the same time.

A basic connection allows for light use for up to four users or devices at a time OR moderate use for three users or devices. Have a medium connection? That will allow for light and moderate use for up to four users or devices at a time and high use for up to two users or devices. An advanced connection lets you pretty much do everything for 4 users or devices at a time.