What is broadband?

Broadband” refers to high-speed (25 Mbps) Internet service that—unlike dial-up modem service—is always “on.”

Simply stated, broadband connects people to the Internet. It is the backbone of the Internet, telephone networks, cable networks, and business networks; providing a high-speed transmission link from a home, business or school to the World-Wide Web and other digital resources. It replaces a traditional “dial-up” telephone connection and allows you to use multiple services at the same time. For example, you don’t need to disconnect from the Internet to make a telephone call.

Broadband is available for different technologies (laptops, mobile phones, tablets, TVs) and from many different Internet Service Providers (ISPs). With compatible equipment, broadband connections allow a user to support many different devices at once. Your household can access the Internet (i.e., surf the World-Wide Web, listen to music, check your email, visit social media sites, etc.), watch TV, and use your telephone simultaneously.

Is broadband the same as “fiber optics”?

Broadband refers to the speed at which Internet services are delivered. Fiber optics comprise the cables that carry light as a signal to bring that information to the home. There are several ways to deliver broadband service. Fiber optics is currently the fastest method—much faster than dial-up, satellite, wireless or cable.

What is SherBand?

With generous funding from the Blandin Foundation, SherBand was established to address the broadband needs of all county residents. Our mission is to educate and partner with residents to help Sherburne County meet the statewide broadband goal of 10 to 20 Mbps to every home and business—securing our county’s economic competitiveness and vitality. 

What is the Blandin Foundation?

Blandin Foundation is a private independent foundation based in Grand Rapids, Minnesota. Blandin Foundation believes that encouraging more sophisticated use of high-speed Internet is a critical component for increasing the vitality of Minnesota’s rural communities. Blandin Foundation believes that high-speed access to the Internet is fundamental to vital communities. Since making rural broadband use and access a focus in 2003, Blandin Foundation has partnered with leaders in nearly 70 communities and 110 organizations across the state to create futures that are resilient, vibrant and connected. 

Why aren’t broadband service providers running this initiative?

In the past, broadband service providers haven’t necessarily been effective marketers. If communities in our county wish to remain economically vital, residents must take an active role in creating infrastructure and increasing the number of users, a situation similar to the historic precedents of rural electricity, telephone and transportation services. Only recently have residents begun to recognize Internet services as an essential core public service, like electricity, telephone, and waste removal services.  It is imperative our county residents understand the relatively low cost of market development and compare it to the economic benefits resulting from increased broadband use. Rather than say to the Internet service providers, “it’s your problem,” it is more important to say, “we need to meet this challenge together.”

What do the speeds advertised by Internet Service Providers mean?

Generally, an Internet Service Provider (ISP) will list a Maximum Advertised Speed. This is the maximum speed they can offer their customers, however the user experience may differ from the advertised speed. Advertised speeds are rarely, if ever, possible to achieve. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) studies show that most providers and technologies perform near or above their advertised speeds. Your ISP may also advertise both a download speed and an upload speed (for example: up to 10mbps/5mbps).  Most users consume more content than they create, and providers provide more downstream service than upstream service.

For downloading, rates may vary depending on how far the home connection is from the service provider or how many users on the network. Other reasons a person might not get the advertised transfer rate include:

  • Time of day they access the network—during peak time the network can only handle so much data
  • The distance they are from the provider equipment—usually the closer to the provider equipment the faster the data will transfer
  • The type of broadband connection
  • Equipment or programs installed (such as firewalls, outdated equipment, and wireless adapters)

What speed do I need?

Broadband speeds can be defined in terms of applications. Currently, The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) defines broadband as 3Mbps downstream and 768kbps upstream. At this speed, applications include basic email and web-browsing, streaming music, standard definition video, and many telecommuting platforms. For more information on what speeds are needed for various applications, visit the Minnesota Ultra High-Speed Broadband Task Force website. 

I don’t currently have broadband service in my area. How do I get service?

One of the most effective ways to get or improve service in your community is to speak up! Educate your friends and neighbors about the growing need for stronger broadband services in our area. Then, take action! Contact your elected officials and Internet Service Providers to let them know there is a strong interest in our county for high-speed broadband. SherBand is here to foster these partnerships to bring broadband to all corners of Sherburne County.