What Is Broadband Internet?

image of broadband internet

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“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 TestMySpeed to check your current broadband 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.

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    Doesn’t require new wiring, uses phone lines

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    Available in rural areas

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    One of the slower broadband connections

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    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.

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    Widely available

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    Faster speeds than other broadband connections

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    Can be expensive

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    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.

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    Fastest upload and download speeds available

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    Can support heavy streaming

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    Most expensive broadband option

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    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.

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    Global coverage

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    Good for light internet usage

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    Slower speeds than other broadband connections

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    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.

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, speeds, and plans to complete your internet checklist. To see what internet service providers are available in your area, enter your zip code below! 

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Anna Ellison
Written By
Anna Ellison
Written By
Anna Ellison
Anna is a Contributing Writer for HighSpeedOptions, covering broadband, TV, and streaming content. She started her career as a content writer in the fintech industry in 2017 before joining the mobile ad-tech space a year later. She graduated with a degree in Professional Writing from Michigan State University, which kickstarted her love of giving companies a voice and telling their stories.