Monique Serbu | December 12, 2016
Types of Broadband Internet
Last Updated on September 14, 2021 by Zoi Walker
Internet technology is constantly changing to improve speed and customer satisfaction. It may be difficult to keep up with new developments, but understanding terms like “DSL” and “broadband” could improve your Internet experience and save you time searching for an Internet Service Provider (ISP).
What Is Broadband Internet?
Broadband is a type of Internet service that is superior to dial-up Internet, both in speed and connectivity. Dial-up Internet uses a manual connection that is often unreliable and monopolizes your phone line. This service can only reach speeds up to 56 kilobits per second (Kbps). Alternatively, broadband Internet provides a more reliable service with average download speeds sitting at approximately 64.17 megabits per second (Mbps) and upload speeds of 9 Mbps — without dominating your phone line.
Various types of Internet service — like DSL, cable, fiber-optic, wireless, and satellite — can be classified as broadband Internet. However, if a service does not meet the minimum download speed of 25 Mbps, they do not meet broadband requirements according to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). The following explanations of broadband Internet can help you decide which will best suit your needs.
One of the most popular broadband Internet options is digital subscriber line, or DSL. This service connects you to high-speed Internet through a telephone line — though you aren’t required to have a landline phone. Because DSL is commonly used, there are numerous providers with a wide range of connection speeds and pricing. One disadvantage of DSL is that the farther you are away from your provider’s location, the slower your connection may be.
Cable services provide Internet access through coaxial cables instead of telephone lines. Cable Internet speed is not affected by distance from the provider location. However, bandwidth may be shared by an entire neighborhood, so your connection could be slowed down significantly when many users are accessing the Internet at once.
An excellent choice for high-speed Internet, fiber-optic services carry information through a network of extremely thin glass or plastic cables. Because they don’t create electricity, fiber-optic systems present less of a fire hazard. Plus, they aren’t shared by neighborhoods, so you can enjoy a dedicated connection. Though fiber-optic systems offer high speeds and reliability, networks are currently limited to specific regions and may come at a higher price.
Wireless Internet uses radio waves to transmit information from a service provider’s location to a customer’s antenna or modem. Because the signal travels a straight course — rather than winding through cables — wireless Internet is often faster. However, speeds can be limited by the number of devices using bandwidth at the same time as well as signal obstructions like buildings. One of the greatest advantages to wireless Internet is that multiple users can access it remotely without having to plug in their devices.
Satellite Internet connects three satellite dishes — one at the Internet provider’s location, one in space, and one on your property. Though satellite Internet is considerably faster than dial-up, it can be slower than DSL and cable Internet depending on your position relative to the satellite. This delay may inconvenience those who want the highest possible speeds for online activities like gaming. Since transmissions can also be interrupted by adverse weather, satellite Internet may only be the best choice for customers in rural areas who don’t have access to other ISPs.
Choosing a Service
When deciding on a type of broadband Internet, you should consider your bandwidth needs. If your online activity primarily consists of browsing the web, sending emails, and occasionally streaming music, you will probably be safe with connection speeds of 4–6 Mbps.
If you prefer to enjoy some online entertainment — like streaming TV shows and movies — you’ll probably be comfortable with speeds over 10 Mbps. However, if you worry that too many users will eat up your bandwidth, or if you simply want uninterrupted, high-speed access for gaming, streaming, or other activities, look for broadband Internet with a connection speed of at least 25 Mbps.
Choosing a Provider
Once you decide which type of broadband Internet will best accommodate your preferences, make sure it is available in your area. As you compare ISPs, make sure the download and upload speeds match what you determined are best for your situation. You should also pay attention to monthly service fees and other expenses, like modem rental or purchase, telephone or television packages, and installation.
Ready to explore CenturyLink internet plans? Check availability near you >