Frequently Asked Questions

The WNC Broadband Project aims to support communities interested in ensuring access to reliable, truly high-speed internet service. The WNC Broadband Project develops tools to empower individuals, communities, and area leaders in advocating effectively for their digital needs.

To learn more about our project, visit our About page.

Truly high-speed Internet service provides speeds needed for the leading-edge services and devices consumers use today, and the infrastructure that allows for faster speeds every couple of years to support those new services and devices that regularly enter the marketplace.

In 1999, when the FCC first defined broadband, truly high-speed was identified as speeds of at least 256 Kbps. In 2009, truly high-speed Internet service was identified as speeds of at least 4 Mbps. In 2019, truly high-speed Internet is regarded as 100 Mbps. By 2029, truly high-speed Internet is likely to be at least 1 Gbps, if not faster. It is critical that our broadband infrastructure allow for this evolution to occur seamlessly, or our economic, healthcare, governmental, cultural and other critical choices and opportunities will be greatly limited.

Mbps stands for Megabits per second. That is the speed the bits are delivered to your device or uploaded from your device. Gbps stands for Gigabits per second, which is 1000 times faster than Mbps per second. In 2010, the FCC set a goal in the U.S. of 100 million homes with 100 Mbps service by 2020. That speed, 100 Mbps download, has become the standard for good residential Internet service in urban areas today.

Streaming services to state-of-the-art TVs and computers, state-of-the-art gaming services, and work-at-home applications. The website “Broadband Now” provides examples of online activities and the speeds needed.

For many people, working from home, which is becoming more common as employers seek to hire the most talented workforce, requires higher download and upload speeds. Most corporate networks today use computer applications that take advantage of 100 Mbps or higher corporate Local Area Networks. For employees of these firms to use their companies applications at home, 100 Mbps or higher services are needed.

The website broadbandnow.com provides examples of online activities and the speeds needed.

  • Check email and browse the web: 1-5 Mbps minimum
  • Stream HD content: 15-25 Mbps minimum
  • Stream 4K content and play competitive online games: 40-100 Mbps minimum
  • Stream 4K content, play online games, and download very large files: 200+ Mbps minimum

Since most homes may have more than one active device at the same time, 100 Mbps is needed for truly high-speed Internet service.

The “Broadband Now” website provides a simpler bandwidth calculation based on the number of users in your home and how they use the Internet. Go to bandwidth calculation tool.

Historically the home Internet access speed of the typical use has doubled every three years or so. This trend is the synergistic effect of electronic technology creating smarter devices with more powerful display, enabling more and better applications that require higher and higher access speeds. This is a 25-year trend that will likely continue. Therefore if you need 25 Mbps today, you will likely need 50 Mbps within three years, and 100 Mbps within six years.

First see what your service provider claims to offer as service.

Then, run a speed test using the link on your community web site or go to speed.measurementlab.net. You may want to check during a low-use period of the day (early morning or late night), and also in the evening hours when many people are using the Internet at home. Some Internet service providers have the infrastructure to deliver truly high-speed Internet but are not keeping up with the demand as more and more people use the latest streaming services.

The term digital divide generally signifies a gap of access to and ability to use information and communication technology (Compaine, B.M. [2001]. The digital divide: Facing a crisis or creating a myth? Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press). More recently, organizations such as the National Digital Inclusion Alliance, have moved toward a concept of “digital inclusion,” which “refers to the activities necessary to ensure that all individuals and communities, including the most disadvantaged, have access to and use of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs)". This includes 5 elements:

  1. affordable, robust broadband internet service;
  2. internet-enabled devices that meet the needs of the user;
  3. access to digital literacy training;
  4. quality technical support;
  5. applications and online content designed to enable and encourage self-sufficiency, participation and collaboration.


WNC residents who cannot obtain truly high-speed Internet (100 Mbps or higher service download speed with essentially unlimited usage) will be on the wrong side of the digital divide in the near future, unable to access cutting-edge devices and services, to develop advanced digital literacy skills, or to achieve parity (economic, social, cultural) with those who do have such access.

A good first step is to find out what speed of service your provider claims to offer. Then run the speed test several times including during the evening busy hour to see if the service provider is providing what they offered.

Modern cable networks and all fiber telecom networks can provide truly high-speed residential service. Most telecom networks that offer DSL services cannot. Neither can cellular networks or satellite networks. Only a few fixed wireless networks can do so.

Click on the link on the community website and follow the instructions. You can also go directly to measurementlabs.net but this will not provide us with information to help evaluate the overall service in the community. Ideally you should run the test during the evening busy hour and then in the early morning or late evening. The first will indicate the service you can expect when many others in your community are using the service. The second should be close to the maximum speed you can expect.

Once you know what your provider claims to offer and what your actual upload and download speeds are, you can communicate with your provider about improved service performance or begin looking for alternative service providers in your area.

You can also encourage your friends and neighbors to take the speed test. When talking with internet service providers, there is often strength in numbers.

There should be a port on the modem provided by your service provider that you can plug your computer directly into. Run the speed test by directly plugging your PC into that port. Make sure nobody else in you home is using the network at the same time.

Also, make sure nobody is using the microwave oven if your microwave is close to you WiFi router. Many modern microwaves use the same frequency as your WiFi router.

Delay is the time that it takes for the bits of information or data to get across the network and back. Delay is typically measured in milliseconds (msec) or 1/1000th of a second. Two-way applications, such as conferencing, are sensitive to delay. Minimal delay is also very important in interactive gaming applications. For today’s Internet access, 20 msec is excellent. Most applications can tolerate delay of two to three times this length without an adverse effect.

The delay with any satellite service today is several hundred msecs. This is due to the time it takes for a signal to reach the satellite, which today is about 25,000 miles above the earth, and return. This delay is far too long for two-way applications and gaming.

The infrastructure for new cellular networks takes 10 to 20 years to roll-out nationwide, particularly to non-urban areas such as Western NC. Truly high-speed 5G Internet service requires the user to be really close to a new or newly modernized cell site, particularly if the user is trying to access the service from inside a home or office. Cellular signal strength is much weaker inside buildings. Therefore, 5G will require increasing the number of cell sites in our area by at least one hundred-fold. Thus, the new 5G infrastructure will first require fiber along all major streets and most secondary streets to connect to the vastly greater number of cell sites.