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Types of Broadband Internet Service
Digital subscriber line, or DSL, internet uses copper telephone lines instead of cable TV lines. Note: Many telephone providers are upgrading their older DSL networks to newer fiber optic networks.
- Access – DSL is widely used in Maine due to the existing telephone line infrastructure.
- Affordability – DSL can be the most affordable option, but also often requires a monthly phone line and internet bundle subscription.
- Reliability – Significant variability in internet speeds and stability.
- Typical download speeds – 3-25 Mbps.
Coaxial cable TV lines are connected to the home, through a modem that translates data from an internet service provider (ISP), and then to a router that connects devices via Wi-Fi or an ethernet cable.
- Access – 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.
- Affordability – Cable can be affordable, but may be only offered as a monthly cable TV and internet bundle subscription.
- Reliability – Speeds can vary because high usage across an ISP’s network can create bottlenecks.
- Typical download speeds – 50-1,000 Mbps.
Fiber lines are added to utility poles that then run to a home through a modem and a router similar to cable to establish a connection. Fiber lines differ from copper lines in that they are made up of extraordinarily thin glass fibers which allow for much higher bandwidth and therefore internet speeds.
- Access – The cost of building the infrastructure for fiber is its main barrier, but it is expanding into new areas in Maine as time goes on.
- Affordability – Subscriptions are often similar to or more than cable, but less often require cable TV or phone bundles
- Reliability – Stable and unaffected by electromagnetic interferences, power fluctuations, or corrosive chemicals.
- Typical download speeds – 1,000 Mbps.
Like satellite TV, customers need to install a dish at their home to connect to satellite internet service.
- Access – Most commonly used in very rural or remote areas.
- Affordability – Variable in cost, with some plans being much lower than all other internet types and others being much higher than fiber.
- Reliability – Connections are even more variable than fixed wireless, again because it can be obstructed by weather, trees, hills, or other topographic features. Additionally, most satellite providers maintain a data cap, so if you consume more internet than expected within a month, internet speeds will plummet beyond that cap.
- Typical download speeds – 10-100 Mbps.
Fixed wireless establishes a connection between cell phone towers and fixed locations (homes) using an antenna.
- Access – Distance dependent, meaning the user needs to be near a tower or relay point to access the internet with a reliable and fast connection. Can be a good option in rural areas lacking other infrastructure.
- Affordability – Variable in cost, but increasingly affordable plans are available.
- Reliability – Compared to mobile wireless internet, it is more reliable because it does not require portability. Connections can be affected by weather, trees, hills, or other topographic features.
- Typical download speeds – 10-100 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 10 Mbps to 1,000 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 3 Mbps to stream movies online, at least 5 Mbps to stream HD-DVD quality video, and at least 15 Mbps for 4K/UHD quality video.
Updated July 11, 2023