What is Broadband and Why do I Need It?

Jeff Lee, Little T Broadband

Though many are familiar with the term, I am still asked this question periodically. If you are not really familiar with the term broadband, this article is for you.

The word broadband is a technical term used in telecommunication to describe a family of techniques used to transmit information over communication systems. A  communication system that most are familiar with today is the internet, which is a world-wide communication network that connects individuals, businesses, schools, governments, and militaries, and has become an integral part of our society.

Broadband communication techniques are used to deliver high-speed internet connections, and the industry and society have adopted the term broadband to mean high-speed internet. So, when you hear the word broadband today, it is typically intended to mean "high-speed internet”.

So what is "high-speed" internet and why do I need it?

High-speed internet is a term that is meant to describe an internet connection that provides download and upload speeds greater than or equal to a chosen minimum standard. Download refers to information coming to your home or business from the internet, such as pages of information you see when you browse or videos that you watch while streaming such as Netflix or other streaming providers. Upload refers to information that is sent from your home or business to some destination out on the internet, which can be simple requests for download information or backups of your smart phone or computer sent to the cloud. This speed is usually listed or represented as a number like 25/3, which stands for 25 megabits per second download and 3 megabits per second upload. Bits per second is used to measure how information flows through the internet, and megabit stands for 1000 bits.

The speeds which are considered high-speed have been a subject of much debate over the years. In the past this has been set as a minimum standard by the FCC, but in recent years with all of the grant money pouring into the industry to expand rural broadband, that definition has been modified by states and other federal government agencies as the FCC has not kept pace with actual internet usage in the industry. The need for high speeds continues to increase as we use the internet more during our daily life and we do things which require more information.

The current FCC minimum standard for high-speed internet is 25/3, but they are in the process of revising this to 100/20. Since 2022 the State of NC has set the minimum standard as 100/100 for all of the state grant programs. It is expected that this standard will continue to increase over time.

Typical internet speeds available depend on the type of connection to the home or business.

  • Rural DSL typically delivers less than 10/1
  • Fixed wireless typically delivers 20/2 or more if you can receive signal
  • Cable typically delivers 100/10 in our area but higher speeds are available in some locations
  • Fiber typically delivers 300/300 or faster

Fiber is considered the gold standard in the industry today and has the capability to deliver the fastest connection speeds. Most providers refer to fiber as a gigabit network which can deliver one million bits per second or more. That said, work is under way in both the fixed wireless and cable industries to improve speeds. DSL is being phased out across the country due to its limitations and the availability of better technologies.

All internet providers that have received grant or subsidy funds in Macon County since 2022 are deploying fiber and are advertising that they will deliver 1G/1G speeds (1 gigabit per second download and 1 gigabit per second upload). In future articles, I will talk about which providers are receiving grants or subsidies in our County and where they will be deploying.