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What Exactly Counts As Broadband?

BY Allconnect | Mon Aug 19, 2013

It was recently announced that The National Broadband Plan is aiming to ensure that 100 million American households are connected to broadband by 2020. However, this promise is a little ambiguous, after all there is no ‘one size fits all’ when it comes to broadband as there are various different types and speeds. So what exactly counts as broadband?

What Speed Can Be Classified As Broadband?

Initially, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) implemented a regulation which meant that anything over 200 kilobits/second was designated as broadband. However, this covered pretty much any connection that wasn’t a dial-up modem and so it was agreed that the FCC would adjust the broadband requirement to 768 kilobits/sec downloading and 200/kilobits/sec uploading.

It is this designation which is widely used today by most agencies including NTIA (The National Telecommunications and Information Administration) who are responsible for the National Broadband Plan, but despite this the FCC have set the standard for the National Broadband Plan at a much higher 4 megabits/second download and 1 megabit/second uploading, meaning that the plan should be bringing high speed internet connections to homes across America.

Understanding The Various Types of Broadband

With technologies evolving so quickly, there is no single type of broadband on the market and that means that the speeds offered vary a great deal. In fact, even within a single type of broadband the actual speeds available will vary depending on a number of different factors including the end user’s own equipment and weather conditions. This does not help those trying to establish what broadband actually is.

The most common types of broadband technologies currently in use, and the speeds each can generally produce, include the following:

  • Copper Wireline – These are the oldest broadband technology currently in use and are pretty much past their sell by date! This type of broadband transmits via copper phone lines. With T-1 the average speed is around 1.544 megabits/second meaning that it would take around 21.3 seconds to download the average song. However, where ISDN is used, speeds drop to between 64 and 128 kilobits/second!
  • Digital Subscriber Lines (DSL) – These also use the traditional copper phone lines, but can achieve much greater connection speeds and is probably the fastest growing of all broadband types. Average speeds lie between 500 kilobits and 40 megabits per second allowing ebooks to be downloaded in less than 3 seconds!
  • Cable – This type of broadband transmits via coaxial cables in the cable TV network using the DOCSIS 3.0 (Data Over Cable Service Internet Standard) standard and can offer speeds of up to 20 megabits/second. Songs can be downloaded in just over 1 second at optimum speeds.
  • Fiber Optic – The fastest broadband technology at present is fiber optic, which works by converting electrical signals into light pulses which are sent through glass fibers. These fibers are no thicker than a single strand of your hair! Minimum speeds are around 5 megabits/second, but can reach up to 150 megabits/second allowing entire feature length movies to be downloaded in around 8 minutes!
  • Terrestrial Wireless – One of the newer technologies is terrestrial wireless which can be unlicensed or licensed and is also available in a mobile variety. Speeds of up to 40 megabits/second can be expected although coverage is not yet widespread.

It is clear that they is a huge amount of variety among the various types of broadband available. The connection your home has could be decided by local availability or your own budget and as you will have noted the range of speeds available is wide open. With this in mind it may well be time for the FCC to revisit their broadband classifications, but in the mean time just look for the best deal you can find in your area!

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