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The ConnectMaine Authority has a new tool to help Maine residents discover their local internet service options. This map is the best information on broadband availability in Maine. However, ConnectMaine knows the information does not represent the actual services that are available for customers especially at the address or street level. ConnectMaine continues to work with providers to improve the accuracy of this data. The map does provide a starting point for communities and consumers to identify what might be available broadband service to their area.
Types of Broadband Internet Service
Digital Subscriber Line (DSL), which is delivered using the existing copper telephone network, is the most widely available internet access technology in Maine today. Download speeds range from 1.5 Mbps to 25 Mbps. Internet access through a DSL connection rarely comes with a data cap, allowing you to stream videos or browse the internet without worrying about overage charges. However, the speed of your connection is dependent on how far you live from the nearest terminal on the telephone company’s network. To find out the speed offered at your specific address, you will need to call the provider and ask them for the upload and download speeds available at your home.
If you already have access to cable TV at your home, then you are likely able to receive internet from your cable provider as well. In general, cable provides faster download speeds than DSL. Download speeds with cable range from 3 Mbps to over 100 Mbps. Currently, most cable companies offer access to the internet without data caps.
For residential customers, fiber optic cable which uses light waves to transmit its signal provides internet access at the fastest speeds available in Maine reaching download speeds of up to 1 Gbps. Fiber is not available everywhere but is growing every year.
Those living in places without DSL, cable, or fiber internet options must rely on wireless technologies for internet access. The most well-known option is provided via satellite. Like satellite TV, customers need to install a dish at their home. Most plans include data caps that limit the amount of data you can use each month without incurring an overage charge. The signal can also fail if bad weather disrupts communication with the satellite. There are various speeds offered through satellite providers depending upon the type of satellite they use. It is important to ask what upload and download speeds are offered and what latency is associated with their technology.
Wireless internet access is growing at a rapid pace across Maine. There are wireless options that are “fixed”: the technology is designed to reach your address and serve your needs at home. As with DSL, this technology is distance-dependent. Your home needs to be near a tower or relay point to access the internet with a reliable and fast connection. Residential customers with a strong wireless cell phone signal at their home should also consider contacting their cell phone provider to learn what options are available for internet services across the cell phone network. Wireless download speeds range from 1.5 Mbps to 25 Mbps.
Internet Speeds Explained
Most modern Internet services are measured in megabits per second or Mbps. A 1 Mbps connection provides speeds of 1 million bits per second or roughly 100 pages of plain text per second. Typically, broadband services advertise both download and upload speeds. Download speeds refer to the speed at which you can obtain information from the network (such as by downloading a song), and upload speeds describe the speed at which you can send information back out (such as by sending an email with an attachment). In Maine, the download speeds for residential broadband services range from 768 kbps to 15 Mbps. In practical terms, download speed affects how long it takes for a web page to load or to download pictures, or the quality of streaming video. For example, Netflix recommends a broadband connection of at least 1.5 Mbps to stream movies online, at least 3 Mbps to stream DVD quality video, and at least 5 Mbps for HD quality video.