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What Is Cable Internet?
Internet Access Definition
Before we talk about cable internet let's do a quick overview of internet access. If we know what internet access is it will help us to understand what cable internet is and how it's different from other ways to connect to the internet.
Internet access allows individuals, families and businesses to use their computers and other electronic devices to connect to the world wide web. Internet service providers (ISPs) can use a number of different ways to provide internet access to their customers, depending upon which services are available in the area they serve.
Internet speeds vary widely, from what is now considered very slow (dial-up) to constantly evolving technologies - including cable internet - that can offer much higher speeds of transmission than those offered by phone companies, for example.
While both cable and DSL (digital subscriber line) are referred to as broadband Internet services, cable internet is generally much faster than DSL. Traditionally, DSL internet speeds have ranged from 3 Mbps up to a rare 60 Mbps, whereas high-speed cable internet can reach speeds in excess of 100 Mbps in many locations. They are getting faster all the time. So why is internet speed so important?
Internet Speed Explained
Internet speed can range from frustratingly slow 56 kilobits per second ( Kbps ) to a dizzying 1000 megabytes per second (Mbps) in some fortunate areas of the country. Typically, Internet provided by phone companies doesn’t have the capacity for high speed internet that cable television companies can offer, which is why most people are using cable for internet access in their homes and businesses today.
Simply put, faster internet speed is a huge advantage in these days of email, streaming video, uploading photos, internet surfing, and more. For example, Internet speed and online gaming go hand in hand.
And before you say, "Oh, we don’t play video games in our house," keep in mind that internet speed and Netflix or other streaming movie services are just as closely intertwined. Without high speed Internet access your viewing pleasure will be frequently interrupted by a small spinning circle in the middle of your screen - very annoying.
Why Use Cable For Internet?
Cable internet is the service provided by Cable TV companies to bring the Internet to your home or business, along with their other services. The advantage of cable internet is that the upload and download speeds are much faster than what was previously available. In contrast, DSL (Digital Subscriber Line) is a service provided by telephone companies, and is significantly slower than cable internet.
If you’ve ever been in the middle of a task, such as uploading large photos or watching a movie or TV show, you've probably experienced the frustration of having to wait while your computer lets you know how much - or how little - data has been transferred so far.
But today, thanks to the technological breakthroughs of high speed cable internet, we can enjoy watching movies, playing games and accessing the internet from multiple devices - our cell phones, TVs, tablets, laptops and PCs.
The Evolution of Cable Internet Access
It may surprise you to learn that the history of cable internet services began around 70 years ago - way back in the late 1940s!
Cable was initially developed to boost over-the-air television broadcasting to remote or mountainous locations. By 1952 around 14,000 subscribers enjoyed enhanced TV reception provided by cable companies.
As improvements in technology enabled cable operators to receive signals from hundred of miles away, the focus of cable service evolved to include the offering of more varied programming to an ever-growing, ever-hungry customer base.
By the early 1960s the customer base had mushroomed to close to a million subscribers, and it became clear that cable was going to be a driving force in the broadcasting field.
This meteoric growth of cable service gained the attention of major corporations which began investing heavily in the fledgling industry.
Almost simultaneously, the FCC became involved at the behest of local television stations who complained that the almost 800 cable systems were taking business away from them. As a result, the FCC expanded its jurisdiction and imposed severe restrictions on the ability of cable services to relay long-distance television signals. This move caused funding to evaporate, effectively arrested the development of cable systems until the early 1970s.
Unable to broadcast sporting events, movies and even syndicated programming, cable operators began exerting pressure on the FCC as well as at federal, state, and local levels, resulting in the gradual decline of the crippling limitations.
By the late 1970s, as a result of the relaxing of the restrictive rules and the pioneering of satellite communications technology, cable companies were in a position to greatly expand their offerings, leading to a substantial increase in the number of cable subscribers.
Further deregulation in the early 1980s gave the rapid growth of cable services another shot in the arm. Over the next several years the cable industry invested more than $15 billion on building infrastructure across the US, which was hailed as the largest private construction project since World War II. The cable industry had finally earned its position as an undisputed force in providing high quality video entertainment and information to its ever-growing customer base.
Despite additional restrictive legislation imposed by Congress in 1992, cable continued to thrive, allowing cable operators to embark on a major upgrade of their distribution systems.
Investing heavily in higher capacity fiber optic and coaxial cable technologies, cable companies, now also known as broadband networks, were able to offer high definition digital video services as well as provide multi-channel video options and a two-way voice service. By the mid-1990s they were also able to supply high-speed access to the increasingly important information superhighway - aka the Internet - all via a single wire into homes and businesses.
As regulations and public policy continued to change and previous restrictions were relaxed, cable operators and television programming companies were in a position to increase broadband services, providing customers with more options for information, entertainment, and communications services, whether they lived in cities, suburbs, rural areas,or even mountainous regions of the US.
Today, thanks to the breakthroughs pioneered by the cable industry, the technological landscape is unrecognizable compared with even a few years ago. Consumers can now enjoy video content and Internet access from multiple services on many different screen sizes - from cell phones to super-sized TVs. In effect, high speed cable internet has forever revolutionized the way we as humans learn, play and interact with each other.