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What Is Broadband Internet

By Anna Ellison
July 29, 2020

“Broadband” and “high-speed internet” are two interchangeable terms you’ve probably read a countless number of times during your search for the best internet service provider. But what exactly is the definition of broadband? To make your quest of finding internet service providers near you easier, we’ll break down the broadband definition, speed, and connection types in 3, 2, 1.

All About Broadband 

The FCC’s definition of broadband is a minimum download speed of 25 Mbps and 3 Mbps upload speed. Download speed is the rate digital data is transferred from the internet to your device, and upload speed is the rate digital data is transferred from your device to the internet. Broadband connects users to the internet and internet-connected services (streaming, gaming, etc.) at faster speeds than traditional dial-up access. Broadband speed differs based on connection type and chosen internet provider and plan. Try a broadband speed test to check your current speed, and learn more about what internet speed you need for your lifestyle. For reference, here are minimum download speeds needed for certain activities:  

  • General web browsing and email: 1 Mbps
  • Checking social media: 1 Mbps
  • Console gaming connected to the internet: 3 Mbps
  • Streaming standard definition video: 3 - 4 Mbps
  • Online multiplayer gaming: 4 Mbps
  • Streaming high definition video: 5 - 8 Mbps
  • Streaming Ultra HD 4K video: 25 Mbps

 

FCC requirement for minimum broadband internet speed is 25 mbps download and 3 mbps upload

Types of Broadband Connections

Broadband internet is available through these main technology types: 

DSL

DSL internet, short for Digital Subscriber Line, uses the copper phone lines that already run through most homes to transmit digital data.


Pros
Doesn’t require new wiring, uses phone lines
Available in rural areas

Cons
One of the slower broadband connections
Depends heavily on proximity to provider’s location

 

Cable

Cable internet uses copper coaxial cables, the same way you get cable TV, to deliver electrical signals to a modem.


Pros
Widely available
Faster speeds than other broadband connections

Cons
Can be expensive
Not as fast as fiber

 

Fiber 

Fiber internet transfers data as light signals through the use of fiber-optic cables made from thin glass or plastic wires.


Pros
Fastest upload and download speeds available
Can support heavy streaming

Cons
Most expensive broadband option
Not as widely available

 

Satellite 

Satellite internet uses three satellite dishes to transmit signals: one dish connected to your modem, one in space, and one at an internet service provider’s hub.


Pros
Global coverage
Good for light internet usage

Cons
Slower speeds than other broadband connections
Not as secure as other connections

 

Broadband connection and speed also depend on what technology your internet service provider offers. Check out these popular providers and their top features.

centuryLink
Best value
Broadband internet starting at $49/mo
cox
Best customer service
Broadband internet starting at $50/mo
frontier
Best package variety
Broadband internet starting at $34.99/mo
spectrum
Best package simplicity
Broadband internet starting at $49.99/mo

Data sourced 7/28/2020. Offers and availability vary by location. Prices are subject to change and may require a contract.

How Has the Broadband Definition Changed? 

The definition of broadband has changed over time. As technology advances, and broadband provider offerings and consumer demands change, the minimum speed needed to accommodate these improvements must also increase. In 2015, the FCC upped its broadband benchmark speeds from 4 Mbps download and 1 Mbps upload (previously established in 2010) to 25 Mbps/3 Mbps — and it’s likely not the last time we’ll see this definition updated. 

Broadband’s definition will continue to change as technology and consumer needs evolve. Broadband providers offer various technology types, speed, and plans to complete your internet checklist. To see what internet service providers are available in your area, enter your zip code below! 

Enter your zipcode to see providers near you

 

Written By
Anna Ellison

Anna is a writer for the HighSpeedOptions team focusing on streaming. She started her career as a content writer in 2017, working one year in the fintech industry before joining the mobile ad tech space with HighSpeedOptions’ parent company, AdAction. In the wild, you can find Anna hiking in the Rocky Mountains, or working on her hot dog travel blog.

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