Fiber optic internet is known for providing the best last-mile broadband service in the 21st century. Fiber Internet is the best option for consumers today, and they are the only option that will allow expansive, efficient upgrades to America’s networks for a generation. Not to claim that no broadband technology will ever surpass fiber-optics and there are different limitations of the existing technologies. If fiber internet is installed to the home connections the transmitters at each end will get an upgrade without touching the underlying cables, low-latency, high-reliability connection.

While other means of delivering high-speed broadband are not too far behind fiber right now, the properties of each technology will allow fiber deployments to scale up quickly and easily while copper and wireless broadband networks will struggle to keep up.

This article provides a brief technical background and explains key concepts for understanding internet services such as bandwidth, latency, channel capacity, and noise. Understanding these concepts is essential in order to assess and compare broadband networks. This article focuses on the “last mile” of broadband connections because a vast majority of the internet infrastructure before the last mile has already transitioned to fiber. Lawmakers and regulators in positions of determining infrastructure policy must understand the realities of networking technologies in order to properly assess the capability of networks to absorb greater user demand.

This post does not explore policy mechanisms to address the fiber deficit currently facing the United States market. EFF intends to publish such material at a future date. The purpose of this paper is to educate policymakers as to the technological differences between different broadband networks and as to the future proof nature of fiber networks.

With the advent of cloud computing, virtual reality, gaming, telehealth, remote services, and high capacity services we have not yet imagined yet, policymakers must grapple with updating the Internet’s infrastructure for the 21st century so that the American people are not left behind.

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