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What is broadband?

Learn what broadband is and how it makes computers faster.

Broadband Internet connections don't tie up phone lines. [©Jupiter Images, 2010]
©Jupiter Images, 2010
Broadband Internet connections don't tie up phone lines.

A high-speed Internet connection can turn your computer into an entertainment machine, granting you quick access to countless audio and video files. The Federal Communications Commission defines broadband as an Internet connection that transfers data from your computer to the Internet (or vicec versa) at a speed of at least 200 kilobytes per second (Kbps). This is almost four times as fast as the top speed you could expect from a typical dial-up modem.

The high speed of broadband Internet lets you get the most out of Web sites that offer streaming music or video; it also allows you to download files (like music or movies) much more quickly. There are also services that require (or at least work best with) broadband connections, like video chat or Voice-over-Internet-Protocol (VoIP), a technology used to make phone calls through a computer.

Speed aside, a broadband connection differs from dial-up in another important way: A broadband Internet connection is always on, and does not tie up the phone line like a dial-up modem.

Broadband Options

Most people who have high-speed Internet at home connect either through a cable modem or through DSL. Cable modems use the same wires as a cable television service. Usually, the local cable TV provider installs the modem and bills you for the service each month. Most cable companies offer packaged deals on broadband Internet and cable TV service.

DSL uses your existing telephone lines, but it's faster than a dial-up modem, and it doesn't interfere with your ability to make or receive phone calls. DSL is often provided by local phone companies, and comes bundled with local phone service. However, if you don't need a land-line telephone, there are some companies that offer "naked DSL" without phone service.

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