Which Kind of Broadband Internet is Right for Me?
There are more possibilities than ever before for connecting your home to fast broadband internet options. Since more choice can bring more uncertainty, we’re here to help simplify your high-speed Internet options a bit. Keep reading to discover which kind of Internet is right for you.
What Are Broadband Internet Services?
“Broadband Internet” encompasses the many types of technologies that bring fast Internet to your home or office — including fiber-based Internet, DSL, satellite, and fixed wireless. And in this world of high-speed, always-ready competition, the advantages of broadband Internet access are only expanding as new technologies emerge.
Simply put, Broadband Internet is high-speed Internet. It represents the most readily available types of Internet for most of the country. Services commonly offered by broadband Internet providers at reliable speeds include the following.
Fiber-Based Broadband Internet
Fiber-based broadband Internet is supported by two types of providers – cable and telecommunications companies. Both use fiber to get you connected to the Internet; they vary only in how that connection is delivered into your home.
Fiber Internet from Cable CompaniesCable Internet service is the USA’s most prevalent means of connecting homes to the Internet. In fact, 90% of American households can access cable Internet, making it the most popular way to get online.
Cable Internet uses fiber optics to deliver the signal to your neighborhood or street, and then uses a coaxial cable to bring that signal to your home. By connecting state-of-the-art fiber highways to high-capacity coaxial cables , this creates a best of both worlds effect, with about 99.6% of the connection occurring over the fiber portion of the network. Speeds vary by location but are available up to two gigabits per second or higher (Gbps).
Pros And Cons of Cable InternetPros:
- High Speeds: Cable internet provides high-speed internet access, making it suitable for bandwidth-intensive activities like streaming, online gaming, and large file downloads.
- Widespread Availability: Cable internet is widely available in urban and suburban areas, making it accessible to a large portion of the population.
- Consistent Speeds: Unlike DSL, cable internet speeds are generally more consistent and less affected by the distance from the service provider's hub.
- Bundling Options: Cable providers often offer bundled packages that include internet, TV, and phone services, providing convenience and potential cost savings for users who want multiple services.
- Stable Connection: Cable internet offers a stable and reliable connection, with minimal susceptibility to weather conditions or environmental factors that can affect other types of connections like DSL.
- Shared Bandwidth: Cable internet operates on a shared network, meaning that the available bandwidth is divided among multiple users in a neighborhood. During peak usage times, this can result in decreased speeds for individual users.
- Limited Upload Speeds: While download speeds are typically high, upload speeds on cable internet can be slower compared to fiber-optic options. This may impact activities such as online gaming and video conferencing.
- Price Fluctuations: While cable internet is generally affordable, promotional pricing may increase after an initial period. Customers should be aware of potential price increases and negotiate with providers.
- Availability in Rural Areas: Cable internet is less likely to be available in rural or remote areas compared to urban and suburban locations. In such areas, users may need to rely on alternative internet options like DSL or satellite.
- Installation Costs: Some cable internet providers may charge installation fees or equipment rental fees, which can add to the overall cost of the service.
- Vulnerability to Outages: Cable internet can be vulnerable to outages, particularly in cases of severe weather or physical damage to the cable infrastructure. However, providers often work quickly to restore service.
- Limited Competition: In some areas, cable internet providers may have a monopoly or limited competition, leading to fewer choices for consumers and potentially higher prices.
When considering cable internet, it's important for users to assess their specific needs, location, and budget, and compare offerings from different providers to make an informed decision.
Fiber Internet from Telecommunications Companies
What is commonly called “fiber Internet” refers to a high-speed Internet network made up of fiber lines that run to the side of your home. Instead of directly connecting to your computer, fiber optics then connect to an ethernet or computer cable to eventually transfer to your router or WiFi.
Speeds vary based on location, but both solutions bring you reliable Internet that hurdles along at astonishing speeds, ranging from hundreds of megabits per second to two gigabits per second and beyond.
Fiber-based Internet is the gold standard for home Internet connections and is a great choice for those who work from home with data-heavy programs; as well as for avid online gamers, and households with dozens of connected devices, including a smart home setup.
Pros and Cons of Fiber Optic Internet
Fiber optic internet offers several advantages and disadvantages. Here's a breakdown of the pros and cons of fiber optic internet:
- High Speeds: Fiber optic internet provides incredibly high-speed connections, making it ideal for bandwidth-intensive activities such as streaming, online gaming, and large file uploads/downloads.
- Low Latency: Fiber optic cables transmit data using light signals, resulting in lower latency compared to traditional cable or DSL connections. This low latency is beneficial for real-time applications like online gaming and video conferencing.
- Symmetrical Speeds: Unlike cable and DSL, fiber optic internet typically offers symmetrical upload and download speeds. This is advantageous for activities that require substantial upload bandwidth, such as video conferencing and cloud-based applications.
- Reliability: Fiber optic cables are not susceptible to electromagnetic interference, offering a more reliable and stable internet connection. They are also less prone to environmental factors, such as weather-related interference.
- Scalability: Fiber optic networks are highly scalable, making it easier to upgrade and adapt to increasing bandwidth demands. This future-proofing aspect is beneficial as technology and internet usage patterns evolve.
- Distance Insensitivity: Fiber optic signals can travel over longer distances without significant loss of signal quality, allowing for consistent high speeds even in areas far from the service provider.
- Limited Availability: Fiber optic internet is not as widely available as cable or DSL, particularly in rural or remote areas. Installation in new areas can be expensive and time-consuming.
- Installation Costs: The initial installation of fiber optic infrastructure can be costly. However, as fiber networks expand, installation costs may decrease over time.
- Equipment Costs: Fiber optic modems and routers may be more expensive compared to those used for cable or DSL. However, this cost is often offset by the performance benefits.
- Dependency on External Power: Unlike traditional copper lines, fiber optic cables require external power for signal amplification. During power outages, users may lose internet connectivity unless backup power systems are in place.
- Vulnerability to Physical Damage: While fiber optic cables are durable, they can be susceptible to physical damage, such as digging or construction activities. Adequate protection and redundancy measures are essential to minimize these risks.
- Limited Competition: In some areas, there may be limited competition among fiber optic providers, potentially leading to higher prices for consumers.
In summary, fiber optic internet is a cutting-edge technology that offers superior performance and reliability. While it may have some limitations, ongoing advancements in infrastructure deployment are addressing these issues, making fiber optic internet an increasingly attractive option for many users.
DSL stands for “digital subscriber line.” DSL uses the wires from landline phone services to bring Internet into your home. In the 1990s, this was how most homes surfed the web. But technology has advanced since then, and DSL runs considerably slower than fiber-based Internet services. About 30 times slower to be exact, with max speeds reaching 25-30 megabits per second (Mbps).
So why would you consider it? Availability. In some areas, DSL may be your only option. Something to keep in mind when setting up a connection: ask your provider directly if it’s fiber-based, if not it may be a DSL connection you’re dealing with. In fact, most telephone companies still predominantly offer DSL.
Pros And Cons of DSL Internet
DSL (Digital Subscriber Line) internet has its advantages and disadvantages. Here are some pros and cons of DSL internet:
- Widespread Availability: DSL is widely available in many areas, especially in urban and suburban locations. It utilizes existing telephone lines, making it accessible in regions where other high-speed options might not be available.
- Cost-Effective: DSL is often more affordable than other high-speed options like cable or fiber-optic internet. It provides a decent balance between speed and cost.
- Consistent Speeds: DSL internet typically offers a stable and consistent connection, especially when compared to traditional dial-up connections. The speed doesn't usually fluctuate as much as with cable internet during peak usage times.
- Independent Connection: Unlike cable internet, DSL provides an independent connection to each subscriber, meaning that the speed is less likely to be affected by the number of users on the network.
- Bundling Options: DSL is often offered in bundles with telephone services, providing additional savings for those who still use landline phones.
- Limited Speeds: DSL speeds are generally slower compared to cable and fiber-optic options. The available speed is highly dependent on the distance from the central office or DSLAM (Digital Subscriber Line Access Multiplexer).
- Distance Limitations: The signal strength and speed of DSL decrease as you move farther away from the central office. Subscribers located far from the source may experience slower speeds and potential service issues.
- Technology Aging: DSL relies on traditional copper telephone lines, which are older and may not support the faster speeds provided by modern cable or fiber-optic networks. While download speeds are reasonable for many tasks, DSL often has slower upload speeds compared to cable and fiber-optic internet. This can be a drawback for activities such as online gaming or video conferencing.
- Upload Speeds: While download speeds are reasonable for many tasks, DSL often has slower upload speeds compared to cable and fiber-optic internet. This can be a drawback for activities such as online gaming or video conferencing.
- Competition with Cable: In areas where cable internet is available, DSL may face tough competition, as cable often provides higher speeds at comparable prices.
In summary, DSL internet is a viable option for users in areas where high-speed alternatives may not be available or affordable. However, it may not be the best choice for those who require extremely fast speeds or live far from the central office. Consider your specific needs and location when evaluating the pros and cons of DSL internet.
5G Home Internet
5G Home Internet or Fixed Wireless Access (FWA) is an evolving technology that comes with the promise of fast speeds and connectivity for your household. But there are a lot of misconceptions surrounding its reliability and how it differs from 5G Mobile. The truth is – it really doesn’t. 5G Home Internet speed relies on the same cell towers as 5G mobile devices, which means they are essentially competing for capacity with cell phones. Plus, they’re impacted by the same obstructions such as buildings and trees.
While the technology behind 5G is a great choice when it comes to mobile data on your phone and for serving remote areas with limited broadband connectivity options, the same cannot be said for powering most in-home Internet needs.
For years, the idea of using satellites as a means of delivering Internet was considered a last-resort option, hobbled by monthly usage restrictions, inclement weather, and slow connections. Similar to DSL and 5G fixed wireless, satellite Internet is generally better suited for areas where other fiber-based Internet connections are not yet available. While satellite connections have advanced in recent years, satellite Internet customers will continue to experience lower speeds and data restrictions than fiber-based Internet customers.
What Is 10G™?
Essentially, 10G™ is a future-proofed initiative designed to keep us connected as digital technologies continue to advance. It’s the industry’s collective commitment to advancing network capacity — from one gigabit to 10G and beyond — in an effort to empower households with a reliable blend of speed, availability and security.
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How Much Speed Do You Need?
Your Internet speed depends on your digital needs. Are you and other members of your household working, attending an online school, or doing homework at home? Do you have several video calls a day? Are you a gamer or a fan of weekend streaming binges?
Our speed quiz is designed to help you discover which speed is right for you. Check it out then use our speed test tool to compare your current Internet speed to what your optimal service might offer.Test Your Speed
The question of speed hinges on what sorts of applications you use, how frequently you use them, and how many different devices are relying on your Internet service at the same time. If you’re a remote worker whose day consists of a steady stream of Zoom meetings and document downloads at the same time other housemates are streaming content — you probably require a connection speed of 200 or more megabits per second. Signing up for a one gigabit per second Internet connection (the equivalent of 1,000 megabits!) might be even better.
Even so, not everybody needs a “gig.” Fewer users, less frequent online activity and a lower number of devices can shift the equation. Even some high-performance apps can be accommodated at somewhat lower speeds. Netflix advises at least a 15 megabits-per-second connection for a high-quality 4K viewing experience. But keep in mind, you can’t do much more than that at the same time. Our advice: choose the service level that gives you the highest data rates for the amount you’re comfortable spending. It’s also helpful to check your provider’s list of options to make sure you have flexibility to upgrade at any time.
What Type of Internet Service is Best for Me?
The provider and plan you choose can impact speed and data usage, so it’s essential to know your specific needs when exploring your options.
While advanced technology has brought us so many ways to connect, the type of Internet connection offered by a provider depends on where you live (i.e., countryside vs. big city), availability in your specific location (i.e., certain apartment complexes may not offer certain types of Internet services), and many other factors. It’s crucial to choose the best connection for your household.