(And Other Burning Questions About High-Speed Fiber Internet)

No, it’s not you. It’s us.


We get so excited when we talk about high-speed fiber internet that you might hear us throwing around words like “Gig,” “VoIP,” and “latency” with reckless abandon.

You’re not alone if you get confused about what all these terms mean.

That’s why we want to help demystify these terms for you with this fun glossary.

OK, first up:
Bandwidth: Simply put, it’s how much data can be delivered through a medium (like the coaxial or fiber optic cable) at one time. It’s measured in bits. As an analogy, think of a garden hose (low bandwidth) and a firehose (high bandwidth). The water is bits of data.

We know your next question already: What the heck is a bit?

1 bit: the smallest unit of data. They’re like atoms of information. Everything you see, watch, read, listen to, dance to, laugh at, download, or upload on the internet is made up of bits. Our goal is to send as many of these bits to you as fast as physics will allow.

1 byte is a group of 8 bits, the standard building block of computer data.

So how fast is fast? Compare the following.

1 Kbps per second (AKA: kilobyte per second) = 1,000 bits per second. Think dial-up.

1 Mbps (AKA: megabit per second or “meg”) = 1,000,000 bits per second. Think: broadband cable Internet

1 Gbps (AKA: gigabit per second or “gig”) = 1,000,000,000 bits per second (think: fiber optic cable).

Helpful tip: data speed and data size are measured differently:

Gigabyte (GB): One billion bytes … but GB is a file size. Gbps is a speed.

Megabyte (MB): One million bytes. And the same goes for MB – it’s a file size measurement. Mbps is the speed.

To put all these numbers into perspective:

The Kbps Era: The ‘90s

Delivered via Dial-Up: In the old Internet days (we’re talking about the 1990s here), when you wanted to “surf the web,” you took the cord from your home phone and plugged it into the computer. Speed – or the amount of data bits that could pass through your phone line — topped out for most consumers at 56K. How fast was 56K? Well, you could download a 5-minute song in just under 13 minutes. To make matters worse, you also heard this awful buzz-beeeeeep-boing-boing-buzzzzzz when you connected to the internet. And everyone in your house was mad that they couldn’t make a call when you were using the modem to check your AOL email. Times were tough.

The Mbps Era: The 2010s:

Delivered via broadband cable & satellite: Starting in the early 2000s, broadband internet became available from cable and satellite TV companies. The official definition of broadband is bandwidth with at least 25Mbps for uploads and 3Mbps for downloads. That means you could download a song in a literal blink of an eye, so things were good for a while. But then something happened. We began streaming high-def movies. We were having more video chats. We TikTok’ed our brains out. Video quality began to suffer, which brings us to…

The Gbps Era: Today

Delivered via Fiber-optic cable: We’re now in the era when the only really fast speeds are considered 100Mbps and faster – and 500Mbps seems to be the minimum for busy families. But the world will soon need Gbps. How fast is that? If cable internet were an expressway (it’s pretty fast, but there are lots of traffic jams), then fiber optic cable would be like a Japanese bullet train. It’s so fast it’s like another category. It uses light waves (the fastest thing we can measure) to carry vast amounts of data incredibly fast. That’s important for your life today. Why? You may not realize it, but you’re using vastly more data than ever before — like streaming 4K movies while having video conference calls while also live-streaming ourselves. Fiber optic does it without hiccups, lag, or pixelated video images.

Finally, just a few more important words you can casually drop at social gatherings to impress friends:

Fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) and Fiber-to-the-premises (FTTP: In the past, fiber was used only to connect large amounts of people. The “last mile” – the connection between you and your internet provider – used something else, like copper wires or coaxial cable, slowing your actual speeds and performance.

Modem vs. Router: A modem is a device that connects your home to the internet. A router is a device that allows you to connect multiple devices to the modem.

Latency: The amount of time it takes for information from your end to reach where it’s going. You want it to be really fast. Otherwise, phone and video calls have those weird, annoying delays, and it’s difficult to have a natural conversation. Playing video games without lag is important – otherwise, your sharp reflexes may not translate into fast action on the screen. Because it uses light speed, fiber has low latency (it’s measured in milliseconds).

VoIP: Voice over Internet Protocol allows you to use the internet the same way you use a telephone but bypass plain old telephone systems. That way you’re not paying another telephone company for long-distance calls and can do more with, like make video calls, send texts, and even send your voice message automatically transcribed and sent as an email.

At Empire Access, we’re happy to help you understand your options when it comes to Internet technology. So if you’re looking for an Internet provider with fast, reliable service who knows how to speak to you without all that jargon, give us a call at (800) 338-3300. Or check to see if our superfast internet is available in your area.

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