What Is Broadband Internet?

Easton Smith
Dec 13, 2023
Icon Time To Read4 min read

Broadband internet is the fastest and most common form of internet access. The term “broadband” simply means that the internet is always available (you don’t need to dial up to connect) and is faster than old school phone line internet connections.

Almost everyone who is connecting to the internet these days is using some form of broadband. In this article we’ll look into the different kinds of broadband internet that exist and what the future of broadband internet access looks like.

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What is broadband?

Broadband is a very broad term (see what we did there?). There are many kinds of internet connections that fit under the umbrella, including:

There are some key differences between these different kinds of internet.

Cable and fiber home internet connections offer the fastest download speeds and are very common in most urban and suburban areas.

But fiber internet is more reliable and has faster upload speeds.

4G and 5G broadband connections use cellular network towers, like those run by Verizon and AT&T, to provide broadband internet to cell phones, hotspots, and other devices. There are no cables involved, but it’s still faster than the old dial-up internet.

DSL internet actually uses the same phone wires that old dial-up internet connections used, but it is significantly faster than what AOL or Netscape Navigator used to be.

Meanwhile, satellite internet uses, you guessed it, satellite dishes! It’s not the fastest option but it’s great for those who live in rural areas.

What all of these different internet connections have in common is that they are always connected (as in you don’t have to “dial up” using a modem) and they give you relatively fast speeds (of at least a few Mbps).

What is not broadband internet?

So we know what broadband is. But let’s take a moment to talk about what is NOT broadband internet. Here are a couple of examples:

  • Dial-up connections that use a phone line (you remember that sound, right?)
  • Local LAN networks

As you can see, the list of broadband internet types is longer than the list of non-broadband connections. That’s because almost every modern internet connection is broadband.

What equipment do you need for broadband internet?

The equipment that you need for broadband internet depends on what kind of connection you want.

The first thing you’ll need for any broadband connection is a way to hook up to the network. For wired connections, this means a phone line (for DSL) or coaxial/fiber optic cables. In most areas, internet companies have already built this infrastructure. You just need to make sure there’s a line running to your home.

Most connections—including DSL, cable, and fiber—will require some kind of modem. But the kind of modem you use will depend on your speeds and your particular internet provider. If you want to have a Wi-Fi network in your home you’ll also need a wireless router.

Finally, you need some devices that can use the internet. With the whole “internet of things” the list of internet-ready devices is long, but you can probably guess the most common ones: computers, tablets, phones, TVs, etc.

What is mobile broadband?

Mobile broadband refers to high-speed cellular internet connections. If you’ve seen a 3G, 4G, LTE, or 5G icon on your phone, then you’ve used mobile broadband internet.

While most mobile internet connections are slower than home internet connections, that’s starting to change. Those who live in areas with millimeter-wave 5G networks can see speeds of over 100 Mbps!

No matter where you live, having a solid unlimited data cell phone plan is one of the best ways to get a reliable broadband internet connection.

Who are the best broadband internet providers?

High-speed internet is big business, and there are a lot of companies competing for customers. But there are a few standout internet companies that offer the best prices, performance, and perks. We’ll highlight a few of our favorites here.

Provider
Monthly price
Download speeds
Data cap
Connection type
Learn more
Xfinity Internet$19.99-$120*75-2000 Mbps1200 MbpsCable/Fiber
AT&T Fiber$55-$225300-5000 MbpsUnlimitedFiber
Verizon Fios Home Internet$49.99-$89.99300-2300 MbpsUnlimitedFiber
Spectrum Internet®$19.99-$89.9930-1000 Mbps^UnlimitedCable
Viasat Internet$69.99-$299.99°12-100 MbpsUnlimitedSatellite
Data as of 04/05/2023. Offers and availability vary by location and are subject to change.
* Pricing for some packages are for the first 12 months. Some packages require a 1- or 2-year contract.
Price after $5/mo Autopay & Paperless bill discount (w/in 2 bills). Plus taxes $ fees. Limited availability. May not be available in your area.
Price per month with Auto Pay & without select 5G mobile plans. Fios plan prices include taxes & fees
^ Limited time offer; subject to change; valid to qualified residential customers who have not subscribed to any services within the previous 30 days and who have no outstanding obligation to Charter.
° Offer available to new qualifying customers. One-time standard installation fee may be due at checkout. Minimum 24-month service term required. Equipment lease fee is $12.99/mo. Taxes apply. Service is not available in all areas. Offer may be changed or withdrawn at any time.
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Best overall: Comcast Xfinity

Xfinity internet is available all over the United States and it offers some of the most competitive prices on super-high-speed plans. In most places you can get enough internet bandwidth for you and your whole family for around $50-$60 a month.

Best speeds: Verizon Fios or AT&T Fiber

If you’re a serious gamer or you have to Zoom in to a lot of work meetings, you might want to consider upgrading to a fiber optic internet plan. Fiber networks have faster upload speeds and are more reliable overall. Both Verizon and AT&T offer great deals on fiber internet. Check out if either offers service in your area using this tool.

Best for rural areas: Viasat

Satellite internet is still broadband, but it will never be able to compete with cable and fiber providers when it comes to speed. That said, many users don’t have an option for wired internet connections. If you’re way out in the boonies or trying to go off grid, then Viasat is your best bet.

The Future of Broadband

Broadband internet technology has come a long way in the last 20 years, and it’s sure to change a lot in the next 20. There are new innovations in internet technology dropping every year, like 5G and Wi-Fi 6.

One obvious way for broadband to expand is to offer faster speeds. This is sure to happen. Already, home internet providers are selling plans with 1 Gbps connection speeds (that’s 1,000 Mbps!), but there’s no reason it can’t get faster.

However, speed isn’t the only thing that matters. The future of broadband will probably include innovations in wireless technology, security, and overall efficiency as well. We also hope that, as high-speed internet becomes more ubiquitous, accessibility in rural areas will become easier and prices will go down across the board.

FAQ

Hopefully this article has helped you understand broadband internet. Still got questions? Check out our FAQ answers below.

Yes. Spectrum is a cable internet provider, which means that it provides high-speed broadband internet.

In the early 2000s broadband internet began to replace old dial-up connections. By the 2010s it was by far the most common type of internet connection. These days, almost no one uses a non-broadband internet connection.

No. While DSL connections do run through phone lines, there are plenty of other broadband internet options, including cable internet, fiber internet, and 5G home internet. You can see the options in your area using this Zip Code tool.

Not exactly.

Wi-Fi is a wireless network that you can create in your home (or other location) using a Wi-Fi router. The Wi-Fi network itself isn’t an internet connection. To connect your Wi-Fi network to the internet, you need to hook it up to a broadband internet modem. Sometimes, broadband modems will come with built-in Wi-Fi routers.

Easton Smith
Written by
Easton has worked as a freelance writer and researcher for several years, reviewing health, lifestyle, and technology products. He has probably read more Terms of Use contracts than any human alive. When he’s not sitting in front of a computer, Easton spends his time camping, climbing, and volunteering with humanitarian aid organizations.

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