Internet connectivity is increasingly becoming the essential tool for 21st century success. With a robust broadband connection, we can balance our love of the Maine lifestyle while retaining access to high-paying job opportunities, world-class education, telehealth medicine, up-to-date news and emergency notifications, and immersive entertainment options.
What is Broadband?
Broadband is a term we throw around that is often synonymous with Internet, but really it is a technical term for the signaling method behind high-speed Internet. It is a data transmission signal operating over a wide range of frequencies that can be sent using fiber optic cable, coaxial cable, twisted pair cable, wireless radio (Wi-Fi, cellular, etc), or wireless satellite. This broad range of data bandwidth enables multiple devices to simultaneously send (upload) and receive (download) information more quickly – the more megabits per second (Mbps) you have available to use in your home, the more devices in your home can more quickly take advantage of everything available to you online.
What are the differences between the various Broadband connections?
- DSL provided by Consolidated Communications (formerly Fairpoint) uses existing copper phone lines to provide broadband. The closer you are to the office, and the better quality your lines, the faster your service will be. This is widely available in in our area but many users are frustrated by the lack of reliability and speed of this older tech.
- Coaxial Cable TV lines from Spectrum (formerly Time Warner) can provide very fast broadband, if it is available at your home. Speed is reduced the more local users there are online at once.
- Wireless hotspots use the shared cellular phone bandwidth from US Cellular, Verizon, or T Mobile locally to provide fast LTE Internet speeds, and sometimes even faster 5G speeds. Unfortunately, even “Unlimited” data plans sometimes slow you way down after too much usage, making it difficult to watch video content for very long. Wireless coverage is spotty and can be affected by weather.
- High Altitude Satellite dishes like those offered by HughesNet can provide broadband, if you have a clear line of sight to the satellite from your home. Because satellites are so far away, data requests are not as responsive as they are from other services. Like cellular services, satellite services currently slow you down if you use too much, are affected by weather, and are usually the most expensive option. Very few users are happy with this choice.
- Low Earth Orbit Satellite Broadband offered by Starlink and soon others relies on thousands of smaller satellites much closer to Earth that allows for much faster connections than traditional satellite services as the signal travels less distance. You do still need a clear line of sight to a larger section of the sky, but performance in bad weather is usually not a problem. This option is still very expensive, but for many people in our region it is the fastest (or sometimes only) choice available.
- Fiber Optic Cable uses glass fibers to guide lasers transmitting Broadband data at incredible speeds. Some fiber optic cables are already in our area as backbone for Cable TV providers or for some businesses and schools, but it is not generally available to consumers currently.
What does Mbps (Megabits per second) mean in the real world?
Please watch this video (click here) where we explain with simple comparisons how data on the Internet moves to help understand this term and why it is important for you and the others in your home to fully enjoy the content available out there.