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Broadband Defined

March 01, 2024 12:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

By Ken Quaglio - March 2024

Reliable, fast and affordable internet connectivity is increasingly as essential a service as electricity and water. While we choose to live or vacation at Lake Anna because of the peace, beauty and outdoor activities, we still want to stay connected. As a 20+ year resident, I’ve experienced pretty much all the options available to stay connected. We hear about broadband, speeds and various technologies. This article will define broadband, provide an overview of the technologies in the market, share the government investments being made and give an update on what’s happening in Louisa, Orange and Spotsylvania counties.

Broadband Defined

Since 2015, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) defined broadband as 25 megabits per second (mbps) download speed (receive) and 3 mbps upload speed (send) (25/3). We also refer to this as highspeed internet. A 1 mbps speed would allow you to download a single small photo in about 1 second. In today’s world of streaming, video chat and work from home, a 25/3 connection is outdated. The FCC aims to redefine broadband as 100 mbps download and 20 mbps upload (100/20). There is also a discussion about setting a national goal of 1 Gigabyte download and 500 mbps upload. You may hear these terms referred to as bandwidth.

If you are a gamer or if you use 2-way video then your download speed, upload speed and latency are the things you care most about. Latency is important as it measures the time it takes for data to move from point A to B. Bandwidth is the amount of data and latency is how fast that data moves. Think of bandwidth as the diameter of the pipe and latency as how fast things move through the pipe. If you have a small pipe and lots of data with high latency, it may take a very long time for you to send and receive data. This is especially problematic with video streaming – think of that cursed buffering spinning wheel.

Some of us remember modems with 1200, 2400, 4800 and 9600 bits per second.


Now let’s look at the technologies delivering high speed internet to homes and business.



Example Providers

Fixed Wireline


Fiber uses sheathed glass tubes to transmit data at extremely high speeds. Fiber is nearly future proof and highly reliable due to the technology and network architecture. Usually no data caps or speed throttling

Up to 10 GB down and 10 GB up.

Firefly, FiberLync, Xfinity, Fios, GloFIber


Cable uses coaxial cables to transmit data. The architecture of these networks has improved speeds and the latest networks offer speeds that can match fiber. Most cable companies have pushed fiber deep into their networks however the connection to the home is still mostly coax cable. Cable networks are more complex than fiber and have more points of failure making them a bit less reliable. May have data caps

Up to 1 GB Down and 50 mbps up

Xfinity, Fios, Cox, Shentel


Uses existing copper telephone lines to provide a data service. Less likely you will find a company offering the service for new customers. Being phased out given the operating cost and network quality

20-100 mbps

Verizon, Shentel, Brightspeed



Fixed wireless access (FWA) is a wireless technology using spectrum. Beam steering may change the quality of the connection as may weather. Data caps typically apply.

100mbps to 1GB

T-Mobile, Verizon, AT&T, Datastream


Geosynchronous Satellite (GEO)

A couple of satellites located 22,000 miles above the equator. Typically have data caps as well as download/upload speed throttling during peak usage. Appear fixed traveling at a velocity aligned to the earth’s rotation

12mbps to 300mbps

Viasat, Hughesnet

Low Earth Orbit Satellite (LEO)

Thousands of satellites located about 1200 miles above the equator. Travel 2x fast as GEO satellites and is non-geostationary. Most have data caps and speed throttling

5-220 mbps down/2-25 mbps up

Starlink (SpaceX), Kuiper (Amazon), OneWeb,


During Covid, it became increasingly clear that highspeed internet is truly an essential service. Broadband is increasingly important to meet the social, health and economic needs of society. Since these services are delivered by businesses rather than the government, decisions on where to build have been determined based primarily on economic returns.

Consequently, more urban areas where the cost to deploy per home is significantly less than rural areas have had access to highspeed internet for some time. Also, the cost for these services is often significant and may be unaffordable to many people. You may hear this situation referred to as the digital divide. Numerous studies have documented the real-world impact of the digital divide. For example, during Covid, children without access to reliable home internet had to find a wi-fi hotspot to connect to do their schoolwork. Often these spots were set up near churches and community centers.

The Federal government has funded a number of programs through multiple agencies to improve broadband access. These programs total about $100B in funding with the goal of making broadband access to the 42 million Americans that have no access. The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) was signed into law in November 2021. IIJA includes $42.5B in funds for broadband under the Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment (BEAD) program. The first 18 months of the program were focused on creating a reliable data set of where broadband is and isn’t deployed today.

BEAD’s focus is on unserved (no access or unreliable access to 25/3 service) communities first and then underserved (lacks access to reliable 100/20 mbps). While all technologies that meet the download/upload requirements are eligible for BEAD funds, there is a preference for fiber technology. Each state received $100M and then additional allocations were based on the number of unserved and underserved households in the state or territory.

Prior to BEAD, Virginia had already distributed $800M through a program called the Virginia Telecommunications Initiative (VATI) which is a grant-based program requiring municipalities to submit a grant application. Under BEAD, Virginia will receive a total of $1.48B in BEAD money. This money will show up in construction over the next several years and represents a once in a lifetime investment in broadband infrastructure.

Make it Local

This is where it gets interesting. Broadband is not operated as a utility like electricity or water. It is a commercial enterprise where a provider signs a franchise agreement with a local municipality. The franchise agreement gives them the right to provide services in that location if they meet certain criteria established by the local government. Unlike the rural Rural Electrification Act or the principle of Universal Service for phone lines, there is no equivalent for broadband. The decision to provide service is an economic decision by the provider based on cost to serve. This has contributed to the digital divide. Rural and poorer areas were largely left out of cable and fiber due to the costs required to build those networks over distances as well as the ability to sell an affordable service. The IIJA and BEAD have significantly changed the economics by subsidizing the build for many unserved and underserved homes; BUT, it all depends on where you live.

Orange County

This county has established what’s known as a municipal broadband authority called FiberLync. FiberLync is an all fiber broadband operator relying buried conduit and fiber delivered to homes and businesses. Essentially, the county provides the capital to FiberLync which is then used to connect homes and business across the county. This approach works in areas where a business is unlikely to invest given the economic returns. FiberLync offers plans ranging from 100/50 mbps to 1Gb/500mbps, priced from $49.99 to $79.99. About 2 years ago, a dialog between Spotsylvania and Orange Counties resulted in an agreement to allow FiberLync to connect a significant number of Spotsylvania addresses adjacent to Orange County in the Livingston and Chancellor districts. The county has effectively used VATI as well as other federal grants to support the expansion of services.

Louisa County

Louisa County has developed a comprehensive broadband strategy for the county. The county has partnered with Rappahannock Electric Cooperative (REC), Dominion Energy and the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission (TJPDC) (5 counties and Charlottesville). The RISE Project aims to provide internet access to 45,000 locations and 112,00 Virginians across 13 counties through Firefly Broadband which is a wholly owned subsidiary of Central Virginia Electric Cooperative. The fiber network will include both buried and aerial (power poles) installation with a target to cover every residence and business in the county by the end of 2025. Louisa developed a comprehensive broadband plan, partnered with key stakeholders and is delivering plans ranging from 100/100 mbps for $49.99 to 1GB/1GB for $79.99 a month. CEC and REC participate by providing right of way access in the parts of the county they serve.

Spotsylvania County

Unfortunately, this is a more complex story. Spotsylvania partnered with a Fixed Wireless Provider called Data Stream to provide service to unserved and underserved parts of the county. The county also lacks a published comprehensive broadband plan. The county is part of the George Washington Regional Commission (GWRC) which is the Planning District Commission like the TJPDC. It includes Spotsylvania, Stafford, King George counties and the city of Fredericksburg. While a comprehensive broadband for GWRC may exist, I couldn’t find it. According to the VATI Dashboard the GWRC hasn’t received any VATI grants. Spotsylvania did apply for a VATI grant in both 2022 and 2023 which were not approved by the state. The county does have an agreement with Comcast (Xfinity) in many parts of the county as well as Verizon DSL and of course satellite. The Data Stream service if available, offers wireless plans ranging from 15/1.5 mbps for $49.99 a month to 75/5 mbps for $179 a month. Portions of the county remain underserved. The county faces numerous challenges with protected areas relating to the Civil War.


Broadband is increasingly an essential service that provides economic, entertainment, educational and health resources. The build out of highspeed, reliable broadband has received a once in a lifetime public investment to extend service to unserved and underserved areas. The average internet user consumes around 600GB of data a month and that is growing quickly to 1 Terabyte of data (1,000 GB). Mobile data usage is also growing rapidly but the vast majority of data usage is still done at home or work; access to fast, reliable, low latency, affordable. Soon, nearly everything will have a chip and a radio in it and be connected. Artificial Intelligence will become ubiquitous. All the ‘apps’ on your phone may disappear as you use natural language (just say what you want) to interact with data. Streaming, augmented reality, virtual reality all will require increasing bandwidth and speed. Or maybe you just want to check your email, go to Facebook and order from Amazon or Walmart. Either way, the infrastructure required to deliver these experiences is essential.

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