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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.


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.


Find the Best Deals on the High-Speed Internet


How Cable Internet Works 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!


How Will Internet Work on Mars?

How will Internet work on the Red Planet? The Shortcut Team took a deeper look at what it might look like. Video Transcript: Here on Earth, the Internet is powered by a web of fiber-optic cables. But how would it work on Mars? NASA has plans to put settlers on the Red Planet, so there’s a chance people you know may live there someday -- and when they do, they’ll want high-speed Internet. Problem is, space Internet can be as slow as dial-up. That’s because current methods rely on old-school radio transmissions. This wouldn’t work very well for Martians looking to stream or chat in real time. At their nearest, Mars and Earth are 34 million miles apart; and that’s why, with today’s tech, transmissions between Mars rovers and Earth have a delay of about 20 minutes. Since we can’t run Internet cables between planets, we’ll need to use satellites differently than we do now. NASA thinks lasers may be the answer. A laser wave is about (one hundred thousand times) 100,000x shorter than a radio wave. That means more room to carry data in the same amount of space -- about 5x more. Smaller waves also mean better signal strength and a more reliable connection. Fortunately, the tech we need already exists. In a mission called the Lunar Laser Communication Demonstration, NASA tested laser transmission speeds that shattered previous records. Experts believe lasers will be able to handle HD videos and more. Today, radio messages to Mars are routed through retired satellites. But the network would need more, and newer, satellites to handle data-heavy requests like streaming. NASA is focussed on upgrading and adding to existing satellites to build a laser-powered space Internet network. So, how will the Internet work on Mars? Much the way it works here on Earth -- just with lasers and satellites instead of cables. We have some work to do to get there, but the future of movie marathons on Mars looks pretty bright.