Broadband 101

> Definitions


> Types of Internet connections
> Providers available in our area

Definitions

Broadband: Broadband refers to the speed at which Internet services are delivered.

FTHN – Fiber-to-the-node: Fiber is terminated in a street cabinet, possibly miles away from the customer premises, with the final connections being copper. FTTN is often an interim step toward full FTTH.

FTTH (fiber-to-the-home): Fiber reaches the boundary of the living space, such as a box on the outside wall of a home.

DSL – Digital Subscriber Line: Those customers with Frontier in our area have this option.

Types of Internet connections

Broadband refers to the speed at which Internet services are delivered. Broadband includes several transmission technologies, not all of which are currently available to us in the Cloquet Valley.

Digital Subscriber Line (DSL): DSL is a wireline transmission technology that transmits data faster (vs. dialup access) over traditional copper telephone lines already installed to homes and businesses. DSL-based broadband provides transmission speeds ranging from several hundred kilobits per second (KBPS) to millions of bits per second (MBPS). The availability and speed of your DSL service may depend on the distance from your home or business to the closest telephone company facility and the number of users at any one time. The age of your copper telephone wiring can also affect speed.

Fiber: Fiber-optic technology converts electrical signals carrying data to light and sends the light through transparent glass fibers about the diameter of a human hair. Fiber transmits data at speeds far exceeding current DSL or cable modem speeds, typically by tens or even hundreds of MBPS.

The actual speed you experience will vary depending on a variety of factors, such as how close to your computer the service provider brings the fiber and how the service provider configures the service, including the amount of bandwidth used. The same fiber providing your broadband can also simultaneously deliver voice (VoIP) and video services, including video-on-demand.

Telecommunications providers sometimes offer fiber broadband in limited areas and have announced plans to expand their fiber networks and offer bundled voice, Internet access, and video services.

Variations of the technology include running the fiber all the way to the customer’s home or business (“Fiber to the Home — FTTH”), to the curb outside, or to a location somewhere between the provider’s facilities and the customer. If the connection is not made directly to the home or business (“Fiber to the Node — FTTN”), it must be transmitted by another method, often involving DSL or cable. This can be less expensive, but does not provide optimal speed.

Wireless: Wireless broadband connects a home or business to the Internet using a radio link between the customer’s location and the service provider’s facility, usually by means of a network of towers. Wireless broadband can be mobile or fixed.

Wireless technologies using longer-range directional equipment provide broadband service in remote or sparsely populated areas where DSL or cable modem service would be costly to provide. Speeds are generally comparable to DSL and the lower end of cable services. An external antenna is usually required.

Wireless broadband Internet access services offered over fixed networks allow consumers to access the Internet from a fixed point (A SET OF TOWERS) while stationary and often require a direct line-of-sight between the wireless transmitter and receiver. These services have been offered using both licensed spectrum and unlicensed devices. For example, thousands of small Wireless Internet Services Providers (WISPs) provide such wireless broadband at speeds of around one MBPS using unlicensed devices, often in rural areas not served by cable or wireline broadband networks.

Wireless Local Area Networks (WLANs) provide wireless broadband access over shorter distances and are often used to extend the reach of a “last-mile” wireline or fixed wireless broadband connection within a home, building, or campus environment. Wi-Fi networks use unlicensed devices and can be designed for private access within a home or business, or be used for public Internet access at “hot spots” such as restaurants, coffee shops, hotels, airports, convention centers, and city parks.

Mobile wireless broadband services are also becoming available from mobile telephone (cell phone) service providers and others. These services are generally appropriate for highly-mobile customers and require a special PC card with a built-in antenna that plugs into a user’s laptop computer. Generally, they provide lower speeds, in the range of several hundred KBPS.

Satellite: Just as satellites orbiting the earth provide necessary links for telephone and television service, they can also provide links for broadband Internet. Satellite broadband is another form of wireless broadband, and is also useful for serving remote or sparsely populated areas.

Downstream and upstream speeds for satellite broadband depend on several factors, including the provider and service package purchased, the consumer’s line of sight to the orbiting satellite, and the weather. Recent development in satellite technology have resulted in higher connection speeds for this technology. Typically, a consumer can expect to receive (download) at a speed of up to 10 MBPS and send (upload) at a speed of about 2-3 MBPS from the new satellite services Exede

and Gen4. Service can be disrupted in extreme weather conditions and the leading carriers limit your data usage.

It is possible to get up to 12 MBPS download and higher than 2-3 MBPS download with the newer systems.

Because of the great distances to send a signal up to the satellite and down again, satellite service has significant “latency” (delays in the signal).  Latency does not interfere with typical video transmission (movies, skype, etc), but may cause difficulties with other complex business uses.  Check with the satellite service providers and test your business application.

Broadband over Powerline (BPL): BPL is the delivery of broadband over the existing low- and medium-voltage electric power distribution network. BPL speeds are comparable to DSL and cable modem speeds. BPL can be provided to homes using existing electrical connections and outlets. BPL is an emerging technology that is available in very limited areas. It has significant potential because power lines are installed virtually everywhere, alleviating the need to build new broadband facilities for every customer.

Cable Modem: Cable modem service enables cable operators to provide broadband access to the Internet, using the same coaxial cables that deliver pictures and sound to your TV set. Most cable modems are external devices that have two connections: one to the cable wall outlet, the other to a computer. They provide transmission speeds of 1.5 MBPS up to about 30MBPS or more.

Subscribers can access their cable modem service by simply turning on their computers, without dialing-up an ISP. You can still watch cable TV while using it. Transmission speeds vary depending on the type of cable modem, cable network, and traffic load (but to a lesser extent than DSL).

There is no cable Internet service available in the Cloquet Valley, and since it is economically unfeasible to install cable in rural areas, we’re unlikely to see it in the future.

Providers in our area

Here is a list of the major ISPs currently operating in and near the Cloquet Valley.

Frontier

Contacts: Scott Behn, 952-891-7712, scott.behn@ftr.com 
Kirk Lehman 612-816-0916, kirk.lehman@ftr.com
Website: www.frontiernet.net

Frontier offers DSL service in Ault, Fairbanks, and Pequaywan townships as well as telephone service (848 exchange). The service is advertised at 1Mbps downstream speeds and 150Kbps upstream, which is relatively slow but still a useable speed for Email and some Web browsing. (We have speed tests results from area users that indicate that their service is sometimes far slower than the service that is advertised.) Even at the speed advertised, Frontier’s service does not approach the definition of “broadband” access.

Reasons for slower-than-advertised service from Frontier include several factors such as distance from the Central Office (CO) in Brimson or even the condition of the copper wiring to your premise, which may be many years old. Copper becomes brittle with exposure to oxygen so if the sheath is worn it could affect both your Internet speed and voice line quality. Also, as more DSL users have come online in these areas, bandwidth is being used up and the intrastructure has not expanded.

Frontier has signed an agreement to offer HughesNet satellite service to their customers in some parts of the country. HughesNet’s owner, Echostar, has launched a new satellite with Jupiter technology that is expected to be able to deliver download speeds of (theoretically) up to 20Mbps. Because Frontier representatives would not meet with CVII, we do not know their plans for our area.

LakeNet Communications, Cooperative Light and Power

Contacts: Kevin Olson, 218-834-2226, kolson@clpower.com 
Website: www.clpower.com

clp_service_areaCooperative Light and Power (CLP) is the electrical provider for most of the CVII service area. CLP has been providing wireless Internet services to portions of its service territory for many years via a series of towers, but this service has not been available to townships in the Cloquet valley.

Recently, CLP has built towers in Normanna Township as part of a beta test and has expressed interest in towers in North Star and Gnesen/Island Lake area.

To complete a network, towers would need to be built every three to five miles. The towers would be at a height of about 160 feet.

AT&T and Verizon Wireless

Website: www.att.com
Website: www.verizonwireless.com

Some wireless handsets allow a customer to create a wireless hotspot from their cell phone to share through a WiFi connection with computers within the home. Customers who want to share service can also purchase a separate device called a mobile hotspot to share internet services without it being tethered to the phone. Speeds can be limited, and often there is a cap for the amount of data used.

AT&T:  Areas closer to Duluth have 4G; areas further north have 3G.

Verizon: Service is not available in all areas of CVII and appears to be most available closest to Duluth.

Excede/Wildblue

Contact: Exede/Wildblue, 888-746-8960
Northland Connect (installer), 888-567-1919
Websites: www.exede.com or www.northlc.com

Excede launched its improved service satellite in 2011 and has expanded its service area to include Minnesota, although CVII townships are on the eastern edge of the western satellite coverage area. Exede is advertised as a one-speed service priced by data capacity. The speed offered is 12 Mbps down and 3 Mbps up. There are installation charges plus monthly equipment rental fee. Right now there is a required 24-month commitment.

Inherent in satellite service however is the “latency” issue, since the signals travel 26,000 miles up and back. So, there is about a half-second minimum latency (delay) with the service, with local users reporting up to 700 milliseconds latency in local installations. This precludes using satellite for Virtual Private Networking (commonly used for telecommuting), VOIP (voice over Internet service), high-definition streaming video without buffering, quick response gaming or real time stock trading, for example.

HughesNet Gen4

gen4.hughesnet.com

Lake County/Lake Connections

(Note: Lake Connections does not currently offer service to customers in the Cloquet Valley, but they are installing service capacity very close to our area.)

Contacts: Jeff Roiland,  218-834-8320, jroiland@lakeconnections.com 
Website: www.lakeconnections.com

lakeconnection_service_areaIn 2010 Lake County was awarded a $10 million grant and $56.5 million loan to construct a fiber optic network in Lake County and sections of St. Louis County.  The network will not serve the CVII service area but will surround the CVII area to the north and to the east.

Lake County began construction of the network in Two Harbors in 2012. It is expected it will take at least three years to complete the entire network.

During Phase 3, Lake County will build network fiber through a portion of the CVII service area, as part of this project. However, at this time, there are no current plans to serve CVII. If additional funds were available, Lake Connections may be interested in providing services to the area.