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Technology Guide and Definitions

Having a solid understanding of the basics of broadband, its delivery, and terminology is important for communities. Tackling the topic of broadband for community members can be daunting given the detailed technical nature of internet service delivery. However, by understanding a few basic terms and concepts, those outside the industry can begin to understand how internet service is delivered and the barriers to its deployment and adoption.

Broadband access (or availability) refers to one’s physical connection to the internet. The term “broadband” has evolved over time as the need for faster speeds and greater bandwidth continue to expand. Broadband, or high-speed internet, is currently defined by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) as internet service with speeds of at least 25 Mbps download and 3 Mbps upload (25/3 Mbps). Broadband speeds are often expressed in a fractional form with the download speed of the connection to the left of the forward slash and the upload speed to the right. Typically, broadband speeds are expressed as megabits per second (Mbps). Other variations include Kilobits per second (Kbps), or 1/1,000 of a Megabit, or Gigabits per second (Gbps), or 1,000 Megabits.

Broadband is delivered by two groups of technologies: fixed and mobile. These speeds may be delivered to the end user via a variety of technologies, including fiber optic, Digital Subscriber Lines (DSL), cable modem, fixed wireless, satellite, or mobile service. Each technology type (fiber, DSL, etc.) has its own advantages and disadvantages for providing last mile service, this is why each is used in specific situations. Increasingly, these technologies are being combined to deliver service in hard to reach areas. It should be the goal of the community to understand and advocate for the most effective solution. This may mean that multiple technologies are deployed as a single solution to meet the greatest needs of the community and to provide the types of services needed now and in the future.

Broadband adoption is different than broadband access and is defined as subscribing to internet service. A household is defined as adopting broadband if its residents have such a connection, while an individual is considered a home broadband adopter if she/he lives in a household that is connected to such a broadband service (even if that individual does not, personally, use that broadband service). Additional terms and definitions are included in the appendix of this document.