Editor’s Note: This is part of an ongoing series about plans to expand internet service infrastructure in Georgia.
What is broadband?
Broadband internet service is service that does not require using a telephone to connect – dial-up. Broadband has different levels of service, different speeds for uploading and downloading content.
Andy Spurgeon, manager of broadband technical assistance with Broadband USA, a federal program, said broadband is always on and is faster than dial-up service.
“It’s generally delivered over fiber options,” Spurgeon said.
The service can be made available through wires or can be done with microwave links.
“There’s no single delivery method that makes it broadband. There’s no single speed,” Spurgeon said.
The key to whether broadband is accurate or not is whether the speeds and reliability are “sufficient for the end user’s needs,” Spurgeon said.
Spurgeon said higher levels of service are particularly important for hospitals, libraries and schools, which generally have greater needs than homes.
The Federal Communications Commission currently defines HS I access as download speeds of 25 mbps – megabits per second – and upload speeds of at least 3 mbps.
Uploading is the ability to send information anywhere via the internet, while downloading is the ability to obtain information from the internet. Bandwidth relates to capacity – how much service is available and how fast.
Information on the internet is passed from one electronic location to another.
Latency is “the time it takes to get between each of those nodes,” Spurgeon said.
The distance a person is from a site may impact latency. For example, someone in Coweta County may get information faster from a site in Atlanta or in Mobile, Ala., than in Turkey or South Africa.
“Latency affects your user experience,” Spurgeon said.
Another factor in evaluating internet service is reliability, also sometimes referred to as consistency or predictability. Reliability relates to how often a user is able to use the internet successfully.
For reliability, networks matter, Spurgeon said.
For most of the United States, the backbone – “the big pipes that carry the bulk” – work well. The problem in a rural area is more likely to be having access to that backbone.
The highest speed transmission networks generally follow interstate highways, Spurgeon said, so finding ways to connect to those networks can bring reliable service to communities.
For those further away from major hubs and from the interstate, there is what Spurgeon calls “the middle mile” which is the connection between the backbone and local networks.
Then there is “the last mile.”
“This is the connection to the individual user,” Spurgeon said. “How to you get to the individual’s home? How do you get to the hospital or the library?”