What is Broadband?

The term broadband commonly refers to high-speed Internet access that is always on and faster than the traditional dial-up access.[1]

The National Broadband Plan (NBP) describes broadband as the “great infrastructure challenge of the early 21st century.”  In 2009, Congress directed the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), to create this national plan of support, direction and funding for telecommunication infrastructure deployment, allocating over $7 billion to the effort.

Broadband is defined as any technology that transmits data through an Internet connection at high speeds and is ‘always on’ (Rural Policy Research Institute, 2008; Crandall & Jackson, 2001). The FCC’s definition identifies the applications that the digital technology provides and acknowledges that the technologies are dynamic. In the NBP and its required annual updates, the FCC establishes broadband status by download and upload speeds, currently set at 4Mbps and 1 Mbps respectively, and by comparison, as faster than a dial-up connection.

Broadband capability is defined as “high-speed, switched, broadband telecommunications capability that enables users to originate and receive high-quality voice, data, graphics, and video telecommunications using any technology” (Telecommunications Act of 1996).

Broadband access, refers to the physical infrastructure that is a part of the information ecosystem which includes the construction of the middle or second-mile, and last-mile construction (NBP, 2010). Access is not, however, simply a matter of physical access to infrastructure for the consumer; for many consumers, providers are still scarce and cost is prohibitive on low-income budgets, making access a convenience rather than a necessity (Horrigan)


[1] What is Broadband – Broadband.gov. (n.d.). Retrieved August 12, 2013, from http://www.broadband.gov/about_broadband.html

Notice: This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant Number 1304382.  Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

Notice: This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant Number 1304382.  Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.