Broadband 101

What is Broadband

Broadband (broad bandwidth) is any connection that allows data to move quickly from the internet to your device. Think of it as an internet pipeline, much like a water or sewer pipeline. When it is slow, it’s an internet connection, but it’s not broadband.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC defines the term “broadband.” They update the metric periodically; it is currently 25 megabits per second download (25 Mbps) and 3 megabits per second (3 Mbps) upload. In New Hampshire, RSA 38:38 connects its definition of “broadband” to the FCC definition.

However, there is a push from many in and out of government to increase the speeds, which the recent funding provided to the states does (the Coronavirus Capital Project Funds (CPF) and the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA). In CPF, projects need to be scalable to 100 megabits per second download and upload speeds; in the IIJA, 100 megabits per second download and 20 megabits per second upload.

Download vs. Upload Speed vs. Latency

A good guide on the difference between download and upload speed comes from New Hampshire company Minim:

“Download speed refers to the speed at which your internet connection is able to retrieve data from the internet. Upload speed refers to the speed that your internet connection can allow data to be sent from your devices to the internet

When considering the quality of your broadband connection, another important measurement is latency – an important benchmark when it comes to gaming and streaming because of its ability to impact gameplay or buffer times.

Sometimes, the terms latency and ping are used interchangeably. Ping is also measured in milliseconds, with an average ping time landing anywhere between 30 and 50 ms. Ping depends on where the remote server is located that you’re trying to ping, where you’re located, and the distance between the two.

Essentially, download speed is what you need when you are streaming media or playing online games; upload speed is what you need when you are working from home or transferring large files from your device; latency (ping) is the time between information transfers between two devices.

Benefits of Broadband

Today, there are several types of connections that provide broadband speed as defined above, and the options available can be very confusing. This is in stark contrast to the early days of internet access when dial-up modems provided only 28.8 kilobits per second download and even less in upload speeds. A full-length movie would take over nine days to download!

But beyond the sheer speed of broadband vs previous generations of the internet, the technology advancements have provided profound benefits in the following fields and beyond:

Education

  • Enhanced internet connections are a large factor in the quality of education received throughout our school systems.
  • Better connections can enhance educational experiences by giving our teachers the access to educational resources. Children can participate in distance/remote learning and receive classroom instruction that would not be available locally.


Economic Development

  • Connectivity enables local communities to attract and retain top talent for their businesses.
  • Job expansion opportunities become numerous when businesses can be more productive and profitable.
  • The playing field between large and small businesses can be further leveled when they can compete across local, national, and global markets.
  • Employers that allow a remote workforce can attract the best talent no matter where they live


Public Safety
Faster response time can occur with faster communication options. The state has worked to improve its cellular communication efforts through the FirstNet initiative. However, many communities are looking at fiber-optic and other high-speed dispatch options that allow for rapid and uninterrupted communications between first responders.

Health Care

  • Faster connections afford better access to clinical services needed for those that lack health care providers in their communities.
  • Added capabilities for providers can offer significantly improved cost-effective access to quality health care.
  • Better remote health care monitoring can allow physicians to be vigilant in providing real-time feedback for better overall patient health.


Disabilities Community

  • Various technology now exists to assist those who could be hearing or visually impaired.
  • With increased speed, there are numerous work opportunities that can be accomplished for those who have mobility issues.
  • Paired with telehealth, more opportunities to address medical challenges in a manner that is safer and more convenient.
  • Helps hasten new technology to bridge the gap and assist those who may be challenged in some way.

Types of Technology

In regard to the types of internet connections, BEA is striving to make sure every location in the state has access to high-speed options, regardless of technology.

  • Fiber-Optic - Glass cables that transmit data using light pulses
  • Cable – Either all copper wiring or a copper/fiber-optic hybrid
  • Mobile – Wireless technology used by phones
  • DSL – Previous-generation copper cable
  • Satellite (Low-Earth Orbit) – Approximate 100 miles above earth; faster speeds
  • Satellite (Geostationary Orbit) – 22,000 miles above earth; earlier generation
  • Fixed Wireless – Fiber-Optic/Cellular hybrid; useful for areas near cellular towers


For more details on the types of connectivity available and how they work, CNET has a great article from 2021 that breaks this down.