What Is Considered High-Speed Internet?


Throughout the past few decades, the term “high-speed Internet” has had many definitions. Also known as broadband, high-speed Internet is offered in four different forms:

  • DSL (Digital Subscriber Line)
  • Satellite Internet
  • Cable Internet
  • Fiber-optic Internet

Dial-up is the only Internet service available that is not considered “high speed.”

Fast Internet is a relative term

High-speed Internet has a speed of 512 kilobits per second (Kbps) or higher, although the idea of fast Internet is relative. Just a few decades ago, dial-up was the only Internet service offered to homes, and the fastest connection possible was 56 Kbps. Back then, speeds more than 1 megabit per second (Mbps) were mostly unimaginable.

The unexpected became expected

Eventually high-speed Internet was introduced to homes and people were getting the unexpected 1 Mbps download speed, and oftentimes even faster. DSL brought faster speeds to urban areas, while satellite Internet provided rural and remote homes and businesses with broadband.

Cable eventually offered speeds faster than both DSL and satellite Internet. However, the copper wires of cable Internet have disadvantages.

A need for even faster Internet

Until a few years ago, cable was considered the fastest Internet. The greatest problem with cable is speeds are inconsistent.

Residents log on during peak Internet hours – when most homes are online streaming content, uploading photos, etc. – and experience slower speeds. The reason for the slowdown is that cable subscribers share a connection with hundreds of neighbors, so speeds are compromised.

Internet users are using more bandwidth than ever before – for video chatting, streaming movies and TV shows, online gaming and more. In just years from now, copper cables won’t be able to support this heavy use.

Today’s definition of fast Internet

In today’s technologically advanced world, fiber-optic Internet is considered the fastest form of Internet available. It far surpasses the 512 Kbps definition of high speed Internet. Some homes in specific areas of the country can get up to 500 Mbps.

Fiber-optic Internet transmits data through pulses of light – allowing it to move greater amounts of data farther distances in less time, compared to copper. And because the fiber is brought to your home, you don’t share your connection with neighbors so your speed won’t be comprised.

Our expectations of Internet speeds have transformed

Internet speeds have gone from just 56 Kbps to a potential 500 Mbps in just a few decades and it likely will not stop there. As companies begin to explore the potential of 1 gigabit per second Internet speeds, people’s expectations of what is considered fast Internet will likely shift again. In fact, the FCC is even considering upping the lower limit for what is considered broadband Internet which indicates perceptions are already changing about high-speed Internet and what is truly fast and what is normal.


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This post was written by the Beacon team.

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