Most people simply care that their internet works but not all internet delivery methods are created equal. We’d like to take a moment to explain the differences between the various internet delivery methods – which will hopefully get you excited about why we are investing in fiber! Our goal is to use fiber-optic cable wherever feasible, but sometimes due to cost and geographic complexities, we continue to use other technologies*.
You may have heard about our $100 million investment over the next 10 years. As part of that investment, we’re committed to investing a large portion of those dollars to continue building out our fiber-optic network to deliver our customers an exceptional internet experience.
What’s so great about fiber-optic internet?
Fiber internet isn’t widely available in most rural places, but it is the future for internet delivery and has several benefits over the alternatives. Fiber is generally built out in area rings which makes it redundant. In other words, if someone accidentally cuts a fiber cable, the data can turn around and be rerouted in the other direction to reduce outages and downtime. Fiber also reduces latency (think loading or buffering a video versus having it start immediately and it runs smoothly without stopping).
Another benefit of fiber is that it is scalable. Fiber has unlimited potential for speed. The only limiting factor is the equipment on either side of the fiber cable. Faster speeds in the future can be realized as new technologies are developed to take advantage of the same fiber in the ground. Finally, installing fiber to a home has been shown to increase home values by more than 3%. So while this is the most expensive internet delivery method to build, we think it is worth the investment wherever possible!
Here is a list of the ways that the internet gets delivered listed from slowest to fastest.
(Hint: Fiber-Optic Cable delivers the fastest internet speeds available!)
Satellite internet can be the only option for individuals in most rural areas of the world. Because each little bit of data must travel to space and back (literally!), it can take longer than other delivery methods to transfer messages. It’s often thought of as a “last resort” option when different technologies aren’t available because of its high latency and noticeable lags. As you can imagine, speeds and latency can also be affected by extreme weather-related conditions.
Tethering, Hotspots, and Mobile Broadband
It’s possible to access the internet by using your cellular data and mobile phone through tethering (connecting to another device through a USB cable) or as a wireless hotspot. This is often an expensive option but works well for sending a quick email on the go. You can also use a portable modem to connect to the internet. It’s a lot like using a mobile hotspot because you’ll pay for specific usage.
Fixed Wireless internet is transmitted with radio waves from equipment on a tower to a receiver on the roof of your home or business. Because it is carried through the air, it requires a “line of sight” connection for delivery and trees, new buildings, etc., can interfere. This is a delivery method Silver Star currently uses in parts of upper Star Valley and other more remote locations and while it works well if there aren’t too many people being served at the same time, speeds can be limited if too many people are on the radios at the same time.
Internet can be delivered via the copper wires that once (and maybe still do!) delivered your landline phone service. Internet data and phone data use different frequencies across the same wiring, which means that both can be used simultaneously. The internet that is delivered by copper wire is fast enough to be considered “broadband” but has some limitations based on the distance from its distribution point. The closer you are to the distribution point, the better experience you will have. However, depending on how many devices you have connected to the internet at once, it’s often too slow for high-definition video streaming and it can’t support effective use from a bunch of devices.
Like the copper wire transmission listed above, internet can also be delivered on the cabling that was installed to provide TV services to your home. Internet usage and television usage still use different frequencies, so again, both services are available simultaneously. Depending on the condition of the coaxial cable, speeds can be higher with this method of delivery than with copper wire.
Fiber-Optic internet service is the fastest internet option available today. It uses light across tiny glass fibers to send and receive data. Since it is a technology that doesn’t use any pre-existing wiring, new cables must be installed (generally underground) to make this type of service available in any new area.
*Silver Star currently offers internet in the last four ways listed here: over fixed wireless, copper wire, coaxial cable, and fiber-optic cable.