What is broadband internet?

Broadband (short for “broad bandwidth”) refers to high-speed internet connections that are "always on.” Broadband provides the fastest service today, with popular residential service types includes DSL, fiber, wireless, and 4G/5G LTE. 


Broadband was introduced in the late 1990’s and mostly replaced older dial-up connections, which used the audible frequency of telephone lines. Because broadband runs on a different frequency, it’s easier to stay online with a faster connection. This allows people to quickly upload, stream and download large files. Let’s take a closer look at how broadband technologies work. 

How does broadband internet work?

Unlike a dial-up connection, broadband connection uses a dedicated line exclusively for data transmission. The internet service provider (like CenturyLink) uses a network build from computers, cables, routers, switches, and many other specialized equipment to bring the internet to each home or business.

Types of broadband internet

There are a few types of broadband connections available today. DSL internet uses copper phone wires, cable internet uses the same coaxial cable as your television, fiber internet uses specialized fiber-optic cables, and there are wireless options like satellite and 4G/5G LTE. 

DSL internet

DSL (Digital Subscriber Line) was one of the earliest forms of broadband internet to be introduced, and it's still common today. DSL uses copper wires in a telephone line to deliver a high-speed data connection. The DSL signal uses different frequencies from the voice lines, making it possible to use internet and landline phone at the same time. CenturyLink DSL speeds can be as high as about 100 Mbps.

Pair bonding

Pair bonding is an option for some DSL connections that increases the bandwidth of single line DSL service. With typical DSL service, there is one pair of copper wires are used (two wires). With pair bonding, two pairs are used (four wires), essentially doubling the internet speed. With pair bonding, speeds can reach up to 140 Mpbs. CenturyLink offers pair bonding in select locations.

Fiber internet

Fiber internet uses fiber-optic cables that carry data in pulses of light over thousands of tiny fiber strands. Moving as light, fiber-optic internet is incredibly fast, and results in a high-quality and reliable connection. In some areas this kind of service can provide connections of up to 10 Gbps. CenturyLink offers fiber internet in select areas, and is quickly expanding this technology to become more widely avalible.

Cable internet

Cable internet is about as common as DSL. It uses the same coaxial cables that transmit TV service to deliver a high-speed internet connection. Using a special cable modem, you can connect to these cable lines and enjoy a broadband data connection. Cable internet speeds can be up to 940 Mbps for downloading and up to 50 Mbps for uploading, depending on the provider and the location. CenturyLink does not offer cable internet service.

Wireless and satellite internet

Wireless internet is available via satellite. It’s most common in rural areas where there's not as much infrastructure for wired internet (DSL, cable or fiber). This type of service is typically provided by (or in partnership with) a wireless phone carrier. CenturyLink offers wireless internet service in certain areas.

Satellite internet transmits data from a satellite orbiting the planet, and can be used anywhere in the world. Satellite speeds for downloading are usually between 25 Mbps to 100 Mbps, with an average of 25 Mbps for uploading. 

What's the difference between broadband and WiFi?

Broadband is a type of high-speed internet connection, while WiFi refers to an in-home wireless network. Once you have broadband service, it can be converted to a wireless signal in your home by a wireless router (or gateway), allowing you to connect multiple devices to the internet without plugging them in to a modem or router.

How do I get a broadband internet connection?

Shop the CenturyLink site to learn about our high-speed internet service and expanding fiber network. See what speeds are available in your area today.  

See what internet speeds are available in your area

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