|A Definition of Broadband|
Broadband refers to an Internet connection that is several times faster than dial-up and is always on. Current minimum speeds of 512 Kbps to 768 Kbps allow for access to the majority of education, tele-health, economic, government, entertainment and public safety services on the Internet today. However, as Internet services and technologies change, so does the definition of broadband. Although broadband is commonly related to technologies such as DSL (digital subscriber line) or cable, other types of providers exist. Factors such as availability, speed, cost, reliability, latency, and portability must be considered when determining what broadband service best meets the needs of the user.
Dial-up and first generation broadband speeds ranging from 28 to 512 Kbps are no longer sufficient to obtain much of today’s information. Without available, affordable broadband service, communities are disadvantaged since so much of today’s current or critical information and services are available on the Internet. Jefferson College Online students need connection speeds at 512 Kbps or above to access online content well. Students connecting at slower rates may not be able to participate in all content types or will participate at a disadvantage when compared to other students.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is Kbps and Mbps? Network speeds are measured in bits per second transferred. A bit is the smallest unit of computer data. A bit, symbolized by 0 or 1, indicates whether an electrical circuit is off or on. It takes eight bits to represent one basic character of text. Kilobits per second (Kbps) means thousands of bits per second can travel through a connection. A bandwidth speed of 768 Kbps means 768,000 bits per second can travel through the connection. If a connection is rated at 1.54 Mega bits per second (Mbps), that means 1,540,000 bits per second can travel through a network connection.
Why is so much data transfer capacity needed? Text is easily transferred even through slower connections. However, to send or receive pictures, audio and especially video on the Internet much more transfer capacity is needed. Computer graphics are made up of tiny dots called pixels. Each pixel is one color. Seen from a distance, the dots blend together and make up an image. In order to represent colors accurately, 24 bits of information are needed to store color information for one pixel. Most digital cameras today can take pictures with over 4 million pixels in one image. That is a lot of bits! Digital movies have fewer pixels in each frame, but the frames display at approximately 15 to 30 per second. It is very bandwidth intensive to play videos on the Internet.
Why do Internet Service Providers list upload and download speeds separately? In typical home use, download speeds are more important than upload speeds. Download speeds affect one’s ability to access files on various Internet servers. Upload speeds affect the speed at which a computer can make requests or upload files to websites like Facebook or the photo processing store. Most home usage is downloading or accessing files. It is helpful when looking for Internet Service Providers to carefully examine the download speed of the connection.
What is network latency? Latency is a measure of delay or responsiveness. High latency in a network connection can be undesirable for some types of network activities. Satellite connectivity has high latency compared to DSL or cable connection methods.
What are some of the common connection methods? Cable – Connects users to the Internet through the same cable as is used for television. This is a fast, reliable, inexpensive method for Internet connectivity. Digital Subscriber Line (DSL) – Is connectivity provided through the phone line. It is available based on one’s proximity to the phone company’s Central Office (CO). This is another method of fast, reliable, popular, inexpensive Internet connectivity. Satellite – This connection method often requires a separate satellite dish be installed than what is used for television. Satellite connectivity requires a clear view of the southern sky. Satellite connectivity is available in rural areas, but has high latency and is affected by severe weather both at the downlink location (home) and uplink location (provider’s uplink facility).
The cost of the service currently is around $60.00 per month for home users. This method often has a monthly maximum transfer limit. The download speed for satellite is much higher than the uplink speeds.
Mobile Broadband – This connection method is often marketed as 3G or 4G referring to the speed. This connection is often limited in rural areas. It is one of the few broadband possibilities that is portable. This service is available in moving vehicles or locations without WI-FI. Speeds are often lower than other connection methods. The service costs around $60.00 per month and often have maximum monthly transfer rates.
Fixed Wireless – This is a little known connection type. Fixed wireless is often provided by small, local companies that have little or no marketing budget. They often rely on word of mouth and websites to sell their service. This is a connection type that is almost always found in rural areas. It is limited in its transmission distance. One must live close to the transmitter and have a “line-of-site” view to receive a signal. Connectivity is provided by a small antenna usually connected to the residence. The speeds are low and usually fall in the 256-768 Kbps range. This service usually competes with satellite and mobile broadband in rural areas. The reliability can be good depending on the provider and the equipment being used. Typical cost of this service is $40.00 per month, usually $20 per month cheaper than its competing connection types.
Can one test their connection speed? Yes, there are several online speed tests. These tests are not entirely accurate, but can give some feedback as to one’s actual connection speed at a given time. A more accurate measure can be obtained from using different available speed tests and testing at different times of the day to obtain an average bandwidth rating. To find these services Google “broadband speed test.” What is your broadband number?