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Tech

How Fiber Optic Internet works

Video Transcript: You might have heard about fiber optics in the doctor’s office, where it’s used for medical imaging. You also might have heard of fiber optics from someone with super-fast Internet. Fiber optic cables carry the fastest speeds available for Internet – speeds of 100 megabites per second, and up! What does that mean to the average web user? If you’re checking headlines and horoscopes online, the difference won’t be much. Your page will load instantly, as it would with much slower speeds. However, if you’re in a home that loves to stream music or movies, or play games online, and do it all on multiple devices, fiber optic Internet could be life-changing. It can deliver the speed to keep you buffer-free and on top of your game. It’s all thanks to a technologically advanced system of flexible glass fibers that send data through pulses of light. It sounds space age – because it kind of is. Pure glass fibers as thin as human hair make up the core of a fiber-optic line. Bundles of these fibers are bound together inside a reflective cladding. Imagine a tiny flashlight on one end of the cable. Pointed straight ahead, its light beam would stop the first time the cable bent. But if the walls are all essentially made of mirrors, the signal motors on. Fiber optic lines are wrapped in reflective cladding so that light signals bounce around every bend, without losing its speed over distance. A buffer coating protects the reflective cladding and the glass fibers inside, shielding it from damage and breakage. What makes fiber optics such a great choice for Internet – besides all that incredible speed, of course? It is way less expensive than copper wiring, which cable and DSL Internet providers depend on. A fiber optic line can carry way more data than copper. They’re also thinner, and when bundled, they can deliver service faster, farther and to more locations. It takes a high-voltage transmitter to send data over a copper network. Fiber-optic transmitters are way more efficient. Because they don’t use electricity, they don’t get all heated up like copper wires do. Fiber optics can deliver a dependable, fast Internet connection perfect for the connected home. The only downside to fiber Internet is that it’s not available everywhere…yet.

Tech

How Satellite Internet Works

Video Transcript: Satellite Internet is Internet that’s from outer space. Well, it travels to outer space, anyway. Satellite Internet data travels more than 23,000 miles – and that’s just one way! In rural areas, satellite Internet is the best option for high speed. A faster option than dial-up, satellite Internet has undergone tons of improvements in technology and infrastructure in recent years. In many places, satellite Internet speeds can match those cable and DSL carriers offer, even. But, let’s get back to the satellite, orbiting directly over the equator, in space. How does it all work? It all starts in your home. When you type in a website URL on your device, the request travels by wire to your satellite dish. The dish is mounted on your home, where there’s a clear view of the southern sky. This gives your dish the best sightline to the satellite. Obstructions such as trees or buildings could impact your service quality. Installers take these factors into consideration when they choose a spot. A dish sends your request data to a satellite. This satellite is geostationary – which means it orbits the earth at just the right speed to essentially stay in one place. The satellite beams your data to a Network Operations Center – on earth. The NOC retrieves data needed for your request – a webpage, document, audio file – and sends it back to the satellite. The whole process works in reverse. The satellite sends data to your dish, which then goes to your device. Your web request will travel more than 46,000 miles before it returns! All this takes a fraction of a second. It’s not unlike the process of getting Internet from other types of carriers, such as cable, DSL or fiber. Latency can become a factor for satellite Internet, however. Latency refers to a delay in data transmission. For most Internet activity – browsing, sharing, streaming – latency doesn’t impact much. Gaming and streaming on multiple devices, however, can prove problematic. And that’s just with a delay of half a second. Some Internet activity needs more speed than satellite can offer at the moment. However, satellite Internet can be fast enough for a household of multiple users. Check with your provider on speeds and data allowances. You can also download large files during off-peak hours. This usually includes overnight hours, when fewer users are on the network. Satellite Internet providers allow users to schedule bigger downloads during these times. Satellite Internet is a space-age idea. It’s given people in places that had only dial-up as an Internet option a choice. With new satellites launched into orbit all the time, satellite Internet will only get faster.

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View Popular Health Search Terms by State

The Shortcut team has been gathering data on the most popular health-related terms that people search for in different parts of the US. If you've ever wondered how your hypochondriac fears compare to the rest of the country, take a look to find out. Launch the tool >

Tech

How Cable Internet Works

https://www.youtube.com/embed/IOZjdDHYB0g Video Transcript: A cable Internet provider sends Internet data over the same lines that bring you your cable TV. They’re called coaxial cables. One coaxial cable can carry 750 to 100 megahertz of data. It takes each cable TV channel about six megahertz to operate. That leaves plenty of space for hundreds of channels – and lots of Internet bandwidth. A cable Internet signal takes up about the same amount of space as a TV channel for both downstream data (data that comes to your computer from the Internet)  and upstream data (things you upload like posts to social media, or files sent to email recipients). To use your cable TV network for high-speed Internet, you need a cable modem and a cable modem termination system. The termination system stays at your Internet provider’s headquarters. In between – there’s that coaxial cable we mentioned before, that carries your TV channels and high-speed Internet data. National cable operators set up several hubs to connect neighborhoods. The coaxial cable system splits available bandwidth evenly among subscribers at any given time. To prevent users from taking more than their share, operators can impose data limits. Need more bandwidth to game, stream and more in your home? Cable Internet providers offer higher pricing tiers to give you access to more Internet speed. Under optimal conditions, when fewer users are on the network, cable Internet speeds can reach as much as 100 megabites per second! Users will find far less speed during high-traffic hours, though. Cable Internet operators can sometimes use a partially-fiber-optic network, from the control center to distribution points near a neighborhood. They then use copper wires for that final mile, to the subscriber. Often a cable carrier will offer phone services in a bundle, too. Usually, the more services you sign up for from a provider, the more you save on individual services if you bought them separately. Whether you’re a cable TV subscriber or want to be one, you have an option for high-speed Internet – without a lot of equipment to add!

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Speed Recommendation Tool Launches

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FAQs

Fastest DSL

How to Get the Fastest DSL Service

Fast DSL service is just a click or call away. Search DSL.com with your ZIP code to find fast DSL service providers in your area, or call with your information ready. Our Internet experts will help you find the fastest high-speed DSL Internet in your neighborhood.

Who is the fastest DSL provider?

That depends on where you live. Not every area of the country has multiple DSL providers. You might have several to choose from. You might just have two. Speeds depend on coverage, technology, distance from the node to your home, and more. Some providers offer different speeds or unique packages in certain areas—again, it all depends on factors like technology and infrastructure. What providers are in your area? Call now to find the fastest service where you live.

Is DSL Internet fast?

Yes. DSL in some areas can reach speeds higher than cable. DSL uses phone lines, like dial-up, but don’t get it confused with that aged technology. DSL offers speeds far beyond what dial-up is capable of.

What you can do with fast Internet speeds

More speed means more activity. The fastest DSL service lets you do more of what you love.

3Mbps

Usually the lowest option for DSL service. It’s great for light web browsing, email and some standard definition (or lower) video streaming. This speed is best for single users or families with few Internet-enabled devices.

6Mbps

At this speed you’ll be able to stream in higher quality—Netflix recommends this speed for DVD quality movies. You’ll also be able to reliably play games online through a game console.

12Mbps

Stream full-HD content and connect more devices at the same time, like your laptop, smartphone and tablet.

24-50 Mbps

From here, you’ll want to scale your service based on the number of users in your house and number of Internet-enabled devices. Want to download a movie, while someone streams a cartoon in the other room and another person plays games online on a portable console on the couch? Do it all without a hitch with faster DSL speeds.

How fast Internet speeds affect your online activity

Make sure to go with a provider with multiple speed options. It’s best to get a plan with the speeds you need. If all you want is to surf the web, do some online shopping and check your email, you’ll be fine with a slower speed. If, however, you start streaming videos and decide you’d like to do it more, boosting your speed is as easy as calling your provider. What difference does a faster speed make? For streaming movies, it means a higher quality picture—no more pixelated, blurry images—and less buffering. Ready to go faster? Call now to find the fastest DSL provider near you!

FAQs

What Speed Do You Need?

What Internet speed do you need to get online? It’s one of the most important factors in determining what kind of Internet service you should get — and it’s one of the hardest questions to answer. The speed you need depends on a lot of things: What you do online. How many people use your network. The number and type of devices you have. Figuring all that out — while you’re looking for an Internet service provider? It can be overwhelming. But luckily, the Federal Communications Commission put together a handy chart of the minimum speeds you need for some common online activities. Let’s take a closer look.

Surfing the Web

Browsing the Web is one of the most basic online activities. It doesn’t use up a lot of bandwidth — and that means it doesn’t require a lot of speed. In fact, the FCC recommends a minimum download speed of just .5 Mbps for casual Web browsing. What does that include? Anything from checking your email to reading your favorite blogs to hunting for jobs online. However, it doesn’t include interactive pages or short videos — for that, you’ll need speeds of at least 1 Mbps.

Streaming media

The speed you need for streaming depends on the kind of media you want. The more bandwidth it requires to load, the faster the speeds you’ll need. Streaming audio, like books and music, has the lowest minimum requirement — under .5 Mbps. Are you streaming a standard video, like a TV show? You’ll need a minimum speed of .7 Mbps. A feature-length movie? You’ll need 1.5 Mbps. And HD movies and online lectures require speeds of at least 4 Mbps.

Video chatting

Video chatting with services like Skype, Google Hangouts or ooVoo is a great way to connect with friends, family, coworkers and even potential employers. But what speed do you need for a high-quality video chats? Basic video chat require speeds of at least 1 Mbps, while HD video chatting and telelearning need at least 4 Mbps. But phone calls over the Internet (also known as VoIP) need less than .5 Mbps.

Online gaming

Online gaming is one of the most data-heavy activities you can do on the Internet — and that means it requires the fastest speeds. If you’re an avid gamer, make sure you have an Internet plan fast enough to support your activities. Gaming on an Internet-connected console requires a connection of at least 1 Mbps. For two-way online gaming — gaming in real-time with another user over the Internet — you’ll need speeds of at least 4 Mbps. Keep in mind — faster is usually better for online activities. Faster speeds will give you better video and audio quality, less latency and less buffering time. You’ll be able to game and video-chat in real-time with people across town or across the world. But not everyone needs the fastest speeds. Before you choose an Internet plan, think about what you do online and what speeds you’ll need to support it.

Tech

How To Check Connection Speed

Your Internet connection speed is one of the most important elements of your Internet service plan. It directly affects your ability to do everything you want to do online. Your connection speed depends on a number of factors, some you can control and others you cannot. Your Internet connection speed is affected by:

  • how many devices are connecting
  • how dedicated your connection is
  • the speed available in your plan
  • the requirements of the task you request
If your connection speed is slower than you would like you can upgrade the plan you have or limit the number of devices connecting to your network.

Speed test

To check connection speed, Internet users often use an online speed test. Speed tests are available through general speed information sites or through your specific Internet service provider. All you need to do is locate a speed test, often through the search engine on your computer, and pick the one you want to use. Speed tests will run a series of mini tests to determine the download and upload Internet speeds your device is able to access at that time. It will then let you know the speeds you are getting. You can compare this speed to the speed your Internet plan offers.

Checking your Internet plan speed

You can find how many Mbps (Megabits per second) you are getting by calling your provider, visiting their website, or checking your bill. Most home Internet plans range between 1.5 Mbps to 40 Mbps. Some fiber-optic plans are capable of providing up to 500 Mbps in certain areas of the country. Your speed number is based on your area and method of connecting to the Internet. For example, Fiber connections are often faster than cable connections based on their newer technology. Depending on your area, it may be possible to switch to a faster technology plan.

What does Mbps mean?

Mbps stands for Megabits per second. This is the unit of measurement for Internet speed. Different Internet tasks require different speeds. In addition, some tasks may take more time to complete than others, given their size and your plan’s capacity. For a better understanding of Internet speed, it takes about 3 Mbps to stream a movie in standard definition, 5 Mbps to stream a movie in high definition and 5 Mbps to play online games. Your Mbps is related to your Internet bandwidth and the lag or latency your computer experiences. Lag and latency are indicators of how fast – or slow – your network speed is.

FAQs

How to Make Your Internet Faster

In a perfect world, you’d always get the Internet speeds that you signed up for — whether that’s 5 Mbps or 500 Mbps. But the truth is, a lot of factors go into determining your Internet speed. Where you live. What you do online. How many devices are on your network, and what kind they are. Even the time of day. You might get faster speeds than promised — or you could speeds slower than what you need. But there’s good news — there are things you can do to boost your Internet speed. Follow these tips to learn how to make your Internet faster:

Conduct a speed test

First, perform a speed test to see if the speeds you’re getting are really slower than they should be. Speed tests, like this one from Ookla, can help you quickly determine your download and upload speeds. If your speeds are significantly slower than they should be, you can troubleshoot your equipment and find out how to make your Internet run faster.

Reset your network

Wondering how to make your Internet faster? The answer could be as simple as resetting your network. Unplug and re-plug your modem or router, and then try getting online again – you may notice faster speeds right away.

Adjust your browser settings

Another possible cause of slow Internet speeds is your Web browser. Check your browser settings for cache or temporary Internet files. You can optimize your speeds by setting your browser to save files and images on sites you go to frequently – since your browser won’t have to download them every time you visit, sites will load more quickly. You can find your cache settings by going to “Settings” or “Tools” in your browser. You can also fix slow Internet by deleting your cookies – bits of data that websites use to track your movements online. Just go to your browser history settings and select “Delete cookies.”

Upgrade your equipment

Outdated equipment and technology can also contribute to slow Internet speeds. If you have an old computer or router, your devices may not be able to support fast speeds — most older routers are only capable of transmitting speeds up to 10 Mbps. If that’s the case, you may need to upgrade to newer devices. Before investing in a new router, check online to see if there are any firmware updates to download — this can also help improve Internet speeds.

See what (or who) is on your network

Open your task manager by pressing CTRL + ALT + DELETE to find out what programs you have running. Programs running in the background slow your Internet connection — close out of any programs that you aren’t currently using. You should also check to see what the users on your network are doing online. Streaming video, downloading files and online gaming are all high-bandwidth activities that can slow Internet speeds on remaining devices.

Call your provider

If these steps don’t improve your Internet speeds, call your Internet service provider. Your provider will be able to tell you what your speeds are, if they’re slower than they should be, and whether or not you have a bad connection.