“What is Broadband?” - A Trip through the Ages

Perhaps, if you were a child or student of the 90’s, you might remember the old MediaOne commercials, boldly proclaiming “This is Broadband, this is the way.”  At which point one could only help but wonder, “Uh, what is Broadband?”

Not wanting to be left behind (after all, the last sandal-wearing man to make a “the way” claim was taken pretty seriously), you undoubtedly hurried over to your computer, or the nearest computer lab/internet cafe available – we’re still stuck in the late 90’s here, mind you.  A quick Altavista search later (yeah, that was a thing), you began to form your grasp of arguably the internet industry’s most-enduring buzzword: “broadband.”

So, what is Broadband?

Well, to answer that question, simply take the sum of two parts.  We have “broad” a catchier, alliteration-friendly way to imply wide, as well as “band,” which any computer-head out there can infer stands for bandwidth.  Combine the two and suddenly, “What is Broadband?” answers itself.  It’s a wider spectrum of bandwidth which enhances the capacity to carry information.

Or, from a user’s perspective, it’s internet that can do more in less time.  With more proverbial space in which to operate while sending and receiving information – what the internet boils down to in layman’s terms – uploads, downloads, page loading, pretty much any online function, all happen faster.

Of course, to best answer “What is broadband?” you have to take into account the technology’s evolution of time…

In its original incarnations, the term broadband referred only to a new kind of hardwire cable connection.  Prior to the advent of broadband, most internet users turned to dial-up internet, utilizing a 56k modem.  Where does the 56 come from? Well, that’s the snail-speed bitrate offered by such modems, crawling along the internet at a painfully ginger stroll.  Not to mention, logging-on to dial-up was a loud, obnoxious process.  And God forbid the phone ring, or risk losing your connection entirely, save for the fortunate few who splurged on an additional phone line.

Broadband was a welcome change, but in the time since it’s changed itself. Today the word “broadband” is broader in a different sense.  No longer does broadband refer to one form of technology, but is more commonly used in terms of “broadband-speed.”  According to the Federal Communications Commission, in order to be referred to as broadband as of 2010, data transmission speeds must exceed 4 megabits per second (Mbps).

The means used to attain such speeds is of no matter.  4G wireless, wall-jack, what-have-you, broadband-speed is the bottom line.  One more time, “What is broadband?” Turns out it was the way. It’s how we got here and if you aren’t there yet, it’s where you need to be.  To all you Johnny-come-lately tubthumpers out there, turn off the Chumbawumba and join us in the era of high speed internet.