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Internet access

internet access, internet access provider
Internet access is the process that enables individuals and organisations to connect to the Internet using computer terminals, computers, mobile devices, sometimes via computer networks Once connected to the Internet, users can access Internet services, such as email and the World Wide Web Internet service providers ISPs offer Internet access through various technologies that offer a wide range of data signaling rates speeds

Consumer use of the Internet first became popular through dial-up Internet access in the 1990s By the first decade of the 21st century, many consumers in developed nations used faster, broadband Internet access technologies By 2014 this was almost ubiquitous worldwide, with a global average connection speed exceeding 4 Mbit/s

Contents

  • 1 History
  • 2 Availability
    • 21 Speed
    • 22 Network congestion
    • 23 Outages
  • 3 Technologies
    • 31 Hardwired broadband access
      • 311 Dial-up access
      • 312 Multilink dial-up
      • 313 Integrated Services Digital Network
      • 314 Leased lines
      • 315 Cable Internet access
      • 316 Digital subscriber line DSL, ADSL, SDSL, and VDSL
      • 317 DSL Rings
      • 318 Fiber to the home
      • 319 Power-line Internet
      • 3110 ATM and Frame Relay
    • 32 Wireless broadband access
      • 321 Satellite broadband
      • 322 Mobile broadband
      • 323 WiMAX
      • 324 Wireless ISP
      • 325 Local Multipoint Distribution Service
  • 4 Pricing and spending
  • 5 Digital divide
    • 51 Growth in number of users
    • 52 Bandwidth divide
    • 53 In the United States
    • 54 Rural access
    • 55 Access as a civil or human right
    • 56 Network neutrality
  • 6 Natural disasters and access
  • 7 See also
  • 8 References
  • 9 External links

History

Main article: History of the Internet

The Internet developed from the ARPANET, which was funded by the US government to support projects within the government and at universities and research laboratories in the US – but grew over time to include most of the world's large universities and the research arms of many technology companies Use by a wider audience only came in 1995 when restrictions on the use of the Internet to carry commercial traffic were lifted

In the early to mid-1980s, most Internet access was from personal computers and workstations directly connected to local area networks or from dial-up connections using modems and analog telephone lines LANs typically operated at 10 Mbit/s, while modem data-rates grew from 1200 bit/s in the early 1980s, to 56 kbit/s by the late 1990s Initially, dial-up connections were made from terminals or computers running terminal emulation software to terminal servers on LANs These dial-up connections did not support end-to-end use of the Internet protocols and only provided terminal to host connections The introduction of network access servers supporting the Serial Line Internet Protocol SLIP and later the point-to-point protocol PPP extended the Internet protocols and made the full range of Internet services available to dial-up users; although slower, due to the lower data rates available using dial-up

Broadband Internet access, often shortened to just broadband, is simply defined as "Internet access that is always on, and faster than the traditional dial-up access" and so covers a wide range of technologies Broadband connections are typically made using a computer's built in Ethernet networking capabilities, or by using a NIC expansion card

Most broadband services provide a continuous "always on" connection; there is no dial-in process required, and it does not interfere with voice use of phone lines Broadband provides improved access to Internet services such as:

  • Faster world wide web browsing
  • Faster downloading of documents, photographs, videos, and other large files
  • Telephony, radio, television, and videoconferencing
  • Virtual private networks and remote system administration
  • Online gaming, especially massively multiplayer online role-playing games which are interaction-intensive

In the 1990s, the National Information Infrastructure initiative in the US made broadband Internet access a public policy issue In 2000, most Internet access to homes was provided using dial-up, while many businesses and schools were using broadband connections In 2000 there were just under 150 million dial-up subscriptions in the 34 OECD countries and fewer than 20 million broadband subscriptions By 2004, broadband had grown and dial-up had declined so that the number of subscriptions were roughly equal at 130 million each In 2010, in the OECD countries, over 90% of the Internet access subscriptions used broadband, broadband had grown to more than 300 million subscriptions, and dial-up subscriptions had declined to fewer than 30 million

The broadband technologies in widest use are ADSL and cable Internet access Newer technologies include VDSL and optical fibre extended closer to the subscriber in both telephone and cable plants Fibre-optic communication, while only recently being used in premises and to the curb schemes, has played a crucial role in enabling broadband Internet access by making transmission of information at very high data rates over longer distances much more cost-effective than copper wire technology

In areas not served by ADSL or cable, some community organizations and local governments are installing Wi-Fi networks Wireless and satellite Internet are often used in rural, undeveloped, or other hard to serve areas where wired Internet is not readily available

Newer technologies being deployed for fixed stationary and mobile broadband access include WiMAX, LTE, and fixed wireless, eg, Motorola Canopy

Starting in roughly 2006, mobile broadband access is increasingly available at the consumer level using "3G" and "4G" technologies such as HSPA, EV-DO, HSPA+, and LTE

Availability

In addition to access from home, school, and the workplace Internet access may be available from public places such as libraries and Internet cafes, where computers with Internet connections are available Some libraries provide stations for physically connecting users' laptops to local area networks LANs

Wireless Internet access points are available in public places such as airport halls, in some cases just for brief use while standing Some access points may also provide coin-operated computers Various terms are used, such as "public Internet kiosk", "public access terminal", and "Web payphone" Many hotels also have public terminals, usually fee based

Coffee shops, shopping malls, and other venues increasingly offer wireless access to computer networks, referred to as hotspots, for users who bring their own wireless-enabled devices such as a laptop or PDA These services may be free to all, free to customers only, or fee-based A Wi-Fi hotspot need not be limited to a confined location since multiple ones combined can cover a whole campus or park, or even an entire city can be enabled

Additionally, Mobile broadband access allows smart phones and other digital devices to connect to the Internet from any location from which a mobile phone call can be made, subject to the capabilities of that mobile network

Speed

Unit   Symbol Bits Bytes
Kilobit per second 103 kbit/s 1,000 bit/s 125 B/s
Megabit/s 106 Mbit/s 1,000 kbit/s   125 kB/s      
Gigabit/s 109 Gbit/s 1,000 Mbit/s   125 MB/s      
Terabit/s 1012 Tbit/s 1,000 Gbit/s   125 GB/s      
Petabit/s 1015 Pbit/s 1,000 Tbit/s   125 TB/s      
 
Unit   Symbol Bits Bytes
Kilobyte per second  103 kB/s 8,000 bit/s 1,000 B/s
Megabyte/s 106 MB/s 8,000 kbit/s       1,000 kB/s      
Gigabyte/s 109 GB/s 8,000 Mbit/s       1,000 MB/s      
Terabyte/s 1012 TB/s 8,000 Gbit/s       1,000 GB/s      
Petabyte/s 1015 PB/s 8,000 Tbit/s       1,000 TB/s      
Main articles: Data rates, Bit rates, Bandwidth computing, and Device data rates

The bit rates for dial-up modems range from as little as 110 bit/s in the late 1950s, to a maximum of from 33 to 64 kbit/s V90 and V92 in the late 1990s Dial-up connections generally require the dedicated use of a telephone line Data compression can boost the effective bit rate for a dial-up modem connection to from 220 V42bis to 320 V44 kbit/s However, the effectiveness of data compression is quite variable, depending on the type of data being sent, the condition of the telephone line, and a number of other factors In reality, the overall data rate rarely exceeds 150 kbit/s

Broadband technologies supply considerably higher bit rates than dial-up, generally without disrupting regular telephone use Various minimum data rates and maximum latencies have been used in definitions of broadband, ranging from 64 kbit/s up to 40 Mbit/s In 1988 the CCITT standards body defined "broadband service" as requiring transmission channels capable of supporting bit rates greater than the primary rate which ranged from about 15 to 2 Mbit/s A 2006 Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development OECD report defined broadband as having download data transfer rates equal to or faster than 256 kbit/s And in 2015 the US Federal Communications Commission FCC defined "Basic Broadband" as data transmission speeds of at least 25 Mbit/s downstream from the Internet to the user’s computer and 3 Mbit/s upstream from the user’s computer to the Internet The trend is to raise the threshold of the broadband definition as higher data rate services become available

The higher data rate dial-up modems and many broadband services are "asymmetric"—supporting much higher data rates for download toward the user than for upload toward the Internet

Data rates, including those given in this article, are usually defined and advertised in terms of the maximum or peak download rate In practice, these maximum data rates are not always reliably available to the customer Actual end-to-end data rates can be lower due to a number of factors In late June 2016, internet connection speeds averaged about 6 Mbit/s globally Physical link quality can vary with distance and for wireless access with terrain, weather, building construction, antenna placement, and interference from other radio sources Network bottlenecks may exist at points anywhere on the path from the end-user to the remote server or service being used and not just on the first or last link providing Internet access to the end-user

Network congestion

Users may share access over a common network infrastructure Since most users do not use their full connection capacity all of the time, this aggregation strategy known as contended service usually works well and users can burst to their full data rate at least for brief periods However, peer-to-peer P2P file sharing and high-quality streaming video can require high data-rates for extended periods, which violates these assumptions and can cause a service to become oversubscribed, resulting in congestion and poor performance The TCP protocol includes flow-control mechanisms that automatically throttle back on the bandwidth being used during periods of network congestion This is fair in the sense that all users that experience congestion receive less bandwidth, but it can be frustrating for customers and a major problem for ISPs In some cases the amount of bandwidth actually available may fall below the threshold required to support a particular service such as video conferencing or streaming live video–effectively making the service unavailable

When traffic is particularly heavy, an ISP can deliberately throttle back the bandwidth available to classes of users or for particular services This is known as traffic shaping and careful use can ensure a better quality of service for time critical services even on extremely busy networks However, overuse can lead to concerns about fairness and network neutrality or even charges of censorship, when some types of traffic are severely or completely blocked

Outages

An Internet blackout or outage can be caused by local signaling interruptions Disruptions of submarine communications cables may cause blackouts or slowdowns to large areas, such as in the 2008 submarine cable disruption Less-developed countries are more vulnerable due to a small number of high-capacity links Land cables are also vulnerable, as in 2011 when a woman digging for scrap metal severed most connectivity for the nation of Armenia Internet blackouts affecting almost entire countries can be achieved by governments as a form of Internet censorship, as in the blockage of the Internet in Egypt, whereby approximately 93% of networks were without access in 2011 in an attempt to stop mobilization for anti-government protests

On April 25, 1997, due to a combination of human error and software bug, an incorrect routing table at MAI Network Service a Virginia Internet Service Provider propagated across backbone routers and caused major disruption to Internet traffic for a few hours

See also: AS 7007 incident and List of web host service outages

Technologies

When the Internet is accessed using a modem, digital data is converted to analog for transmission over analog networks such as the telephone and cable networks A computer or other device accessing the Internet would either be connected directly to a modem that communicates with an Internet service provider ISP or the modem's Internet connection would be shared via a Local Area Network LAN which provides access in a limited area such as a home, school, computer laboratory, or office building

Although a connection to a LAN may provide very high data-rates within the LAN, actual Internet access speed is limited by the upstream link to the ISP LANs may be wired or wireless Ethernet over twisted pair cabling and Wi-Fi are the two most common technologies used to build LANs today, but ARCNET, Token Ring, Localtalk, FDDI, and other technologies were used in the past

Ethernet is the name of the IEEE 8023 standard for physical LAN communication and Wi-Fi is a trade name for a wireless local area network WLAN that uses one of the IEEE 80211 standards Ethernet cables are interconnected via switches & routers Wi-Fi networks are built using one or more wireless antenna called access points

Many "modems" provide the additional functionality to host a LAN so most Internet access today is through a LAN, often a very small LAN with just one or two devices attached And while LANs are an important form of Internet access, this raises the question of how and at what data rate the LAN itself is connected to the rest of the global Internet The technologies described below are used to make these connections

Hardwired broadband access

The term broadband includes a broad range of technologies, all of which provide higher data rate access to the Internet The following technologies use wires or cables in contrast to wireless broadband described later

Dial-up access

Dial-up Internet access uses a modem and a phone call placed over the public switched telephone network PSTN to connect to a pool of modems operated by an ISP The modem converts a computer's digital signal into an analog signal that travels over a phone line's local loop until it reaches a telephone company's switching facilities or central office CO where it is switched to another phone line that connects to another modem at the remote end of the connection

Operating on a single channel, a dial-up connection monopolizes the phone line and is one of the slowest methods of accessing the Internet Dial-up is often the only form of Internet access available in rural areas as it requires no new infrastructure beyond the already existing telephone network, to connect to the Internet Typically, dial-up connections do not exceed a speed of 56 kbit/s, as they are primarily made using modems that operate at a maximum data rate of 56 kbit/s downstream towards the end user and 34 or 48 kbit/s upstream toward the global Internet

Multilink dial-up

Multilink dial-up provides increased bandwidth by channel bonding multiple dial-up connections and accessing them as a single data channel It requires two or more modems, phone lines, and dial-up accounts, as well as an ISP that supports multilinking – and of course any line and data charges are also doubled This inverse multiplexing option was briefly popular with some high-end users before ISDN, DSL and other technologies became available Diamond and other vendors created special modems to support multilinking

Integrated Services Digital Network

Integrated Services Digital Network ISDN is a switched telephone service capable of transporting voice and digital data, is one of the oldest Internet access methods ISDN has been used for voice, video conferencing, and broadband data applications ISDN was very popular in Europe, but less common in North America Its use peaked in the late 1990s before the availability of DSL and cable modem technologies

Basic rate ISDN, known as ISDN-BRI, has two 64 kbit/s "bearer" or "B" channels These channels can be used separately for voice or data calls or bonded together to provide a 128 kbit/s service Multiple ISDN-BRI lines can be bonded together to provide data rates above 128 kbit/s Primary rate ISDN, known as ISDN-PRI, has 23 bearer channels 64 kbit/s each for a combined data rate of 15 Mbit/s US standard An ISDN E1 European standard line has 30 bearer channels and a combined data rate of 19 Mbit/s

Leased lines

Leased lines are dedicated lines used primarily by ISPs, business, and other large enterprises to connect LANs and campus networks to the Internet using the existing infrastructure of the public telephone network or other providers Delivered using wire, optical fiber, and radio, leased lines are used to provide Internet access directly as well as the building blocks from which several other forms of Internet access are created

T-carrier technology dates to 1957 and provides data rates that range from 56 and 64 kbit/s DS0 to 15 Mbit/s DS1 or T1, to 45 Mbit/s DS3 or T3 A T1 line carries 24 voice or data channels 24 DS0s, so customers may use some channels for data and others for voice traffic or use all 24 channels for clear channel data A DS3 T3 line carries 28 DS1 T1 channels Fractional T1 lines are also available in multiples of a DS0 to provide data rates between 56 and 1,500 kbit/s T-carrier lines require special termination equipment that may be separate from or integrated into a router or switch and which may be purchased or leased from an ISP In Japan the equivalent standard is J1/J3 In Europe, a slightly different standard, E-carrier, provides 32 user channels 64 kbit/s on an E1 20 Mbit/s and 512 user channels or 16 E1s on an E3 344 Mbit/s

Synchronous Optical Networking SONET, in the US and Canada and Synchronous Digital Hierarchy SDH, in the rest of the world are the standard multiplexing protocols used to carry high-data-rate digital bit-streams over optical fiber using lasers or highly coherent light from light-emitting diodes LEDs At lower transmission rates data can also be transferred via an electrical interface The basic unit of framing is an OC-3c optical or STS-3c electrical which carries 155520 Mbit/s Thus an OC-3c will carry three OC-1 5184 Mbit/s payloads each of which has enough capacity to include a full DS3 Higher data rates are delivered in OC-3c multiples of four providing OC-12c 622080 Mbit/s, OC-48c 2488 Gbit/s, OC-192c 9953 Gbit/s, and OC-768c 39813 Gbit/s The "c" at the end of the OC labels stands for "concatenated" and indicates a single data stream rather than several multiplexed data streams

The 1, 10, 40, and 100 gigabit Ethernet GbE, 10 GbE, 40/100 GbE IEEE standards 8023 allow digital data to be delivered over copper wiring at distances to 100 m and over optical fiber at distances to 40 km

Cable Internet access

Main article: Cable Internet access

Cable Internet provides access using a cable modem on hybrid fiber coaxial wiring originally developed to carry television signals Either fiber-optic or coaxial copper cable may connect a node to a customer's location at a connection known as a cable drop In a cable modem termination system, all nodes for cable subscribers in a neighborhood connect to a cable company's central office, known as the "head end" The cable company then connects to the Internet using a variety of means – usually fiber optic cable or digital satellite and microwave transmissions Like DSL, broadband cable provides a continuous connection with an ISP

Downstream, the direction toward the user, bit rates can be as much as 400 Mbit/s for business connections, and 250 Mbit/s for residential service in some countries Upstream traffic, originating at the user, ranges from 384 kbit/s to more than 20 Mbit/s Broadband cable access tends to service fewer business customers because existing television cable networks tend to service residential buildings and commercial buildings do not always include wiring for coaxial cable networks In addition, because broadband cable subscribers share the same local line, communications may be intercepted by neighboring subscribers Cable networks regularly provide encryption schemes for data traveling to and from customers, but these schemes may be thwarted

Digital subscriber line DSL, ADSL, SDSL, and VDSL

Digital Subscriber Line DSL service provides a connection to the Internet through the telephone network Unlike dial-up, DSL can operate using a single phone line without preventing normal use of the telephone line for voice phone calls DSL uses the high frequencies, while the low audible frequencies of the line are left free for regular telephone communication These frequency bands are subsequently separated by filters installed at the customer's premises

DSL originally stood for "digital subscriber loop" In telecommunications marketing, the term digital subscriber line is widely understood to mean Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line ADSL, the most commonly installed variety of DSL The data throughput of consumer DSL services typically ranges from 256 kbit/s to 20 Mbit/s in the direction to the customer downstream, depending on DSL technology, line conditions, and service-level implementation In ADSL, the data throughput in the upstream direction, ie in the direction to the service provider is lower than that in the downstream direction ie to the customer, hence the designation of asymmetric With a symmetric digital subscriber line SDSL, the downstream and upstream data rates are equal

Very-high-bit-rate digital subscriber line VDSL or VHDSL, ITU G9931 is a digital subscriber line DSL standard approved in 2001 that provides data rates up to 52 Mbit/s downstream and 16 Mbit/s upstream over copper wires and up to 85 Mbit/s down- and upstream on coaxial cable VDSL is capable of supporting applications such as high-definition television, as well as telephone services voice over IP and general Internet access, over a single physical connection

VDSL2 ITU-T G9932 is a second-generation version and an enhancement of VDSL Approved in February 2006, it is able to provide data rates exceeding 100 Mbit/s simultaneously in both the upstream and downstream directions However, the maximum data rate is achieved at a range of about 300 meters and performance degrades as distance and loop attenuation increases

DSL Rings

DSL Rings DSLR or Bonded DSL Rings is a ring topology that uses DSL technology over existing copper telephone wires to provide data rates of up to 400 Mbit/s

Fiber to the home

Fiber-to-the-home FTTH is one member of the Fiber-to-the-x FTTx family that includes Fiber-to-the-building or basement FTTB, Fiber-to-the-premises FTTP, Fiber-to-the-desk FTTD, Fiber-to-the-curb FTTC, and Fiber-to-the-node FTTN These methods all bring data closer to the end user on optical fibers The differences between the methods have mostly to do with just how close to the end user the delivery on fiber comes All of these delivery methods are similar to hybrid fiber-coaxial HFC systems used to provide cable Internet access

The use of optical fiber offers much higher data rates over relatively longer distances Most high-capacity Internet and cable television backbones already use fiber optic technology, with data switched to other technologies DSL, cable, POTS for final delivery to customers

Australia began rolling out its National Broadband Network across the country using fiber-optic cables to 93 percent of Australian homes, schools, and businesses The project was abandoned by the subsequent LNP government, in favour of a hybrid FTTN design, which turned out to be more expensive and introduced delays Similar efforts are underway in Italy, Canada, India, and many other countries see Fiber to the premises by country

Power-line Internet

Power-line Internet, also known as Broadband over power lines BPL, carries Internet data on a conductor that is also used for electric power transmission Because of the extensive power line infrastructure already in place, this technology can provide people in rural and low population areas access to the Internet with little cost in terms of new transmission equipment, cables, or wires Data rates are asymmetric and generally range from 256 kbit/s to 27 Mbit/s

Because these systems use parts of the radio spectrum allocated to other over-the-air communication services, interference between the services is a limiting factor in the introduction of power-line Internet systems The IEEE P1901 standard specifies that all power-line protocols must detect existing usage and avoid interfering with it

Power-line Internet has developed faster in Europe than in the US due to a historical difference in power system design philosophies Data signals cannot pass through the step-down transformers used and so a repeater must be installed on each transformer In the US a transformer serves a small cluster of from one to a few houses In Europe, it is more common for a somewhat larger transformer to service larger clusters of from 10 to 100 houses Thus a typical US city requires an order of magnitude more repeaters than in a comparable European city

ATM and Frame Relay

Asynchronous Transfer Mode ATM and Frame Relay are wide-area networking standards that can be used to provide Internet access directly or as building blocks of other access technologies For example, many DSL implementations use an ATM layer over the low-level bitstream layer to enable a number of different technologies over the same link Customer LANs are typically connected to an ATM switch or a Frame Relay node using leased lines at a wide range of data rates

While still widely used, with the advent of Ethernet over optical fiber, MPLS, VPNs and broadband services such as cable modem and DSL, ATM and Frame Relay no longer play the prominent role they once did

Wireless broadband access

Wireless broadband is used to provide both fixed and mobile Internet access with the following technologies

Satellite broadband

Satellite Internet access via VSAT in Ghana

Satellite Internet access provides fixed, portable, and mobile Internet access Data rates range from 2 kbit/s to 1 Gbit/s downstream and from 2 kbit/s to 10 Mbit/s upstream In the northern hemisphere, satellite antenna dishes require a clear line of sight to the southern sky, due to the equatorial position of all geostationary satellites In the southern hemisphere, this situation is reversed, and dishes are pointed north Service can be adversely affected by moisture, rain, and snow known as rain fade The system requires a carefully aimed directional antenna

Satellites in geostationary Earth orbit GEO operate in a fixed position 35,786 km 22,236 miles above the Earth's equator At the speed of light about 300,000 km/s or 186,000 miles per second, it takes a quarter of a second for a radio signal to travel from the Earth to the satellite and back When other switching and routing delays are added and the delays are doubled to allow for a full round-trip transmission, the total delay can be 075 to 125 seconds This latency is large when compared to other forms of Internet access with typical latencies that range from 0015 to 02 seconds Long latencies negatively affect some applications that require real-time response, particularly online games, voice over IP, and remote control devices TCP tuning and TCP acceleration techniques can mitigate some of these problems GEO satellites do not cover the Earth's polar regions HughesNet, Exede, AT&T and Dish Network have GEO systems

Satellites in low Earth orbit LEO, below 2000 km or 1243 miles and medium Earth orbit MEO, between 2000 and 35,786 km or 1,243 and 22,236 miles are less common, operate at lower altitudes, and are not fixed in their position above the Earth Lower altitudes allow lower latencies and make real-time interactive Internet applications more feasible LEO systems include Globalstar and Iridium The O3b Satellite Constellation is a proposed MEO system with a latency of 125 ms COMMStellation™ is a LEO system, scheduled for launch in 2015, that is expected to have a latency of just 7 ms

Mobile broadband

Service mark for GSMA

Mobile broadband is the marketing term for wireless Internet access delivered through mobile phone towers to computers, mobile phones called "cell phones" in North America and South Africa, and "hand phones" in Asia, and other digital devices using portable modems Some mobile services allow more than one device to be connected to the Internet using a single cellular connection using a process called tethering The modem may be built into laptop computers, tablets, mobile phones, and other devices, added to some devices using PC cards, USB modems, and USB sticks or dongles, or separate wireless modems can be used

New mobile phone technology and infrastructure is introduced periodically and generally involves a change in the fundamental nature of the service, non-backwards-compatible transmission technology, higher peak data rates, new frequency bands, wider channel frequency bandwidth in Hertz becomes available These transitions are referred to as generations The first mobile data services became available during the second generation 2G

Second generation 2G from 1991:
Speeds in kbit/s down and up
• GSM CSD 96 kbit/s
• CDPD up to 192 kbit/s
• GSM GPRS 25G 56 to 115 kbit/s
• GSM EDGE 275G  up to 237 kbit/s
Third generation 3G from 2001:
Speeds in Mbit/s down up
• UMTS W-CDMA 04 Mbit/s
• UMTS HSPA 144 58
• UMTS TDD 16 Mbit/s
• CDMA2000 1xRTT 03 015
• CDMA2000 EV-DO 25–49 015–18
• GSM EDGE-Evolution  16 05
Fourth generation 4G from 2006:
Speeds in Mbit/s down up
HSPA+ 21–672 58–168
Mobile WiMAX 80216 37–365 17–376
LTE 100–300 50–75
LTE-Advanced:  
  • moving at higher speeds 100 Mbit/s
  • not moving or moving at lower speeds up to 1000 Mbit/s
MBWA 80220 80 Mbit/s

The download to the user and upload to the Internet data rates given above are peak or maximum rates and end users will typically experience lower data rates

WiMAX was originally developed to deliver fixed wireless service with wireless mobility added in 2005 CDPD, CDMA2000 EV-DO, and MBWA are no longer being actively developed

In 2011, 90% of the world's population lived in areas with 2G coverage, while 45% lived in areas with 2G and 3G coverage

WiMAX

Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access WiMAX is a set of interoperable implementations of the IEEE 80216 family of wireless-network standards certified by the WiMAX Forum WiMAX enables "the delivery of last mile wireless broadband access as an alternative to cable and DSL" The original IEEE 80216 standard, now called "Fixed WiMAX", was published in 2001 and provided 30 to 40 megabit-per-second data rates Mobility support was added in 2005 A 2011 update provides data rates up to 1 Gbit/s for fixed stations WiMax offers a metropolitan area network with a signal radius of about 50 km 30 miles, far surpassing the 30-metre 100-foot wireless range of a conventional Wi-Fi local area network LAN WiMAX signals also penetrate building walls much more effectively than Wi-Fi

Wireless ISP

Wi-Fi logo

Wireless Internet service providers WISPs operate independently of mobile phone operators WISPs typically employ low-cost IEEE 80211 Wi-Fi radio systems to link up remote locations over great distances Long-range Wi-Fi, but may use other higher-power radio communications systems as well

Traditional 80211b is an unlicensed omnidirectional service designed to span between 100 and 150 m 300 to 500 ft By focusing the radio signal using a directional antenna 80211b can operate reliably over a distance of many kmmiles, although the technology's line-of-sight requirements hamper connectivity in areas with hilly or heavily foliated terrain In addition, compared to hard-wired connectivity, there are security risks unless robust security protocols are enabled; data rates are significantly slower 2 to 50 times slower; and the network can be less stable, due to interference from other wireless devices and networks, weather and line-of-sight problems

Deploying multiple adjacent Wi-Fi access points is sometimes used to create city-wide wireless networks Some are by commercial WISPs but grassroots efforts have also led to wireless community networks Rural wireless-ISP installations are typically not commercial in nature and are instead a patchwork of systems built up by hobbyists mounting antennas on radio masts and towers, agricultural storage silos, very tall trees, or whatever other tall objects are available There are a number of companies that provide this service

Proprietary technologies like Motorola Canopy & Expedience can be used by a WISP to offer wireless access to rural and other markets that are hard to reach using Wi-Fi or WiMAX

Local Multipoint Distribution Service

Local Multipoint Distribution Service LMDS is a broadband wireless access technology that uses microwave signals operating between 26 GHz and 29 GHz Originally designed for digital television transmission DTV, it is conceived as a fixed wireless, point-to-multipoint technology for utilization in the last mile Data rates range from 64 kbit/s to 155 Mbit/s Distance is typically limited to about 15 miles 24 km, but links of up to 5 miles 8 km from the base station are possible in some circumstances

LMDS has been surpassed in both technological and commercial potential by the LTE and WiMAX standards

Pricing and spending

Broadband affordability in 2011 This map presents an overview of broadband affordability, as the relationship between average yearly income per capita and the cost of a broadband subscription data referring to 2011 Source: Information Geographies at the Oxford Internet Institute

Internet access is limited by the relation between pricing and available resources to spend Regarding the latter, it is estimated that 40% of the world's population has less than US$20 per year available to spend on information and communications technology ICT In Mexico, the poorest 30% of the society counts with an estimated US$35 per year US$3 per month and in Brazil, the poorest 22% of the population counts with merely US$9 per year to spend on ICT US$075 per month From Latin America it is known that the borderline between ICT as a necessity good and ICT as a luxury good is roughly around the “magical number” of US$10 per person per month, or US$120 per year This is the amount of ICT spending people esteem to be a basic necessity Current Internet access prices exceed the available resources by large in many countries

Dial-up users pay the costs for making local or long distance phone calls, usually pay a monthly subscription fee, and may be subject to additional per minute or traffic based charges, and connect time limits by their ISP Though less common today than in the past, some dial-up access is offered for "free" in return for watching banner ads as part of the dial-up service NetZero, BlueLight, Juno, Freenet NZ, and Free-nets are examples of services providing free access Some Wireless community networks continue the tradition of providing free Internet access

Fixed broadband Internet access is often sold under an "unlimited" or flat rate pricing model, with price determined by the maximum data rate chosen by the customer, rather than a per minute or traffic based charge Per minute and traffic based charges and traffic caps are common for mobile broadband Internet access

Internet services like Facebook, Wikipedia and Google have built special programs to partner with mobile network operators MNO to introduce zero-rating the cost for their data volumes as a means to provide their service more broadly into developing markets

With increased consumer demand for streaming content such as video on demand and peer-to-peer file sharing, demand for bandwidth has increased rapidly and for some ISPs the flat rate pricing model may become unsustainable However, with fixed costs estimated to represent 80–90% of the cost of providing broadband service, the marginal cost to carry additional traffic is low Most ISPs do not disclose their costs, but the cost to transmit a gigabyte of data in 2011 was estimated to be about $003

Some ISPs estimate that a small number of their users consume a disproportionate portion of the total bandwidth In response some ISPs are considering, are experimenting with, or have implemented combinations of traffic based pricing, time of day or "peak" and "off peak" pricing, and bandwidth or traffic caps Others claim that because the marginal cost of extra bandwidth is very small with 80 to 90 percent of the costs fixed regardless of usage level, that such steps are unnecessary or motivated by concerns other than the cost of delivering bandwidth to the end user

In Canada, Rogers Hi-Speed Internet and Bell Canada have imposed bandwidth caps In 2008 Time Warner began experimenting with usage-based pricing in Beaumont, Texas In 2009 an effort by Time Warner to expand usage-based pricing into the Rochester, New York area met with public resistance, however, and was abandoned On August 1, 2012 in Nashville, Tennessee and on October 1, 2012 in Tucson, Arizona Comcast began tests that impose data caps on area residents In Nashville exceeding the 300 Gbyte cap mandates a temporary purchase of 50 Gbytes of additional data

Digital divide

Internet users in 2012 as a percentage of a country's population Source: International Telecommunications Union Fixed broadband Internet subscriptions in 2012
as a percentage of a country's population
Source: International Telecommunications Union Mobile broadband Internet subscriptions in 2012
as a percentage of a country's population
Source: International Telecommunications Union The digital divide measured in terms of bandwidth is not closing, but fluctuating up and down Gini coefficients for telecommunication capacity in kbit/s among individuals worldwide

Despite its tremendous growth, Internet access is not distributed equally within or between countries The digital divide refers to “the gap between people with effective access to information and communications technology ICT, and those with very limited or no access” The gap between people with Internet access and those without is one of many aspects of the digital divide Whether someone has access to the Internet can depend greatly on financial status, geographical location as well as government policies “Low-income, rural, and minority populations have received special scrutiny as the technological "have-nots"

Government policies play a tremendous role in bringing Internet access to or limiting access for underserved groups, regions, and countries For example, in Pakistan, which is pursuing an aggressive IT policy aimed at boosting its drive for economic modernization, the number of Internet users grew from 133,900 01% of the population in 2000 to 31 million 176% of the population in 2011 In countries such as North Korea and Cuba there is relatively little access to the Internet due to the governments' fear of political instability that might accompany the benefits of access to the global Internet The US trade embargo is another barrier limiting Internet access in Cuba

Access to computers is a dominant factor in determining the level of Internet access In 2011, in developing countries, 25% of households had a computer and 20% had Internet access, while in developed countries the figures were 74% of households had a computer and 71% had Internet access When buying computers was legalized in Cuba in 2007, the private ownership of computers soared there were 630,000 computers available on the island in 2008, a 23% increase over 2007

Internet access has changed the way in which many people think and has become an integral part of peoples economic, political, and social lives The United Nations has recognized that providing Internet access to more people in the world will allow them to take advantage of the “political, social, economic, educational, and career opportunities” available over the Internet Several of the 67 principles adopted at the World Summit on the Information Society convened by the United Nations in Geneva in 2003, directly address the digital divide To promote economic development and a reduction of the digital divide, national broadband plans have been and are being developed to increase the availability of affordable high-speed Internet access throughout the world

Growth in number of users

 
2005 2010 2014a
World population 65 billion 69 billion 72 billion
Not using the Internet 84% 70% 60%
Using the Internet 16% 30% 40%
Users in the developing world 8% 21% 32%
Users in the developed world 51% 67% 78%
a Estimate
Source: International Telecommunications Union
 
2005 2010 2014a
Africa       2%             10%             19%      
Americas 36% 49% 65%
Arab States 8% 26% 41%
Asia and Pacific 9% 23% 32%
Commonwealth of
Independent States
 
10%
 
34%
 
56%
Europe 46% 67% 75%
a Estimate
Source: International Telecommunications Union
Main article: Global Internet usage

Access to the Internet grew from an estimated 10 million people in 1993, to almost 40 million in 1995, to 670 million in 2002, and to 27 billion in 2013 With market saturation, growth in the number of Internet users is slowing in industrialized countries, but continues in Asia, Africa, Latin America, the Caribbean, and the Middle East

There were roughly 06 billion fixed broadband subscribers and almost 12 billion mobile broadband subscribers in 2011 In developed countries people frequently use both fixed and mobile broadband networks In developing countries mobile broadband is often the only access method available

Bandwidth divide

Traditionally the divide has been measured in terms of the existing numbers of subscriptions and digital devices "have and have-not of subscriptions" Recent studies have measured the digital divide not in terms of technological devices, but in terms of the existing bandwidth per individual in kbit/s per capita As shown in the Figure on the side, the digital divide in kbit/s is not monotonically decreasing, but re-opens up with each new innovation For example, "the massive diffusion of narrow-band Internet and mobile phones during the late 1990s" increased digital inequality, as well as "the initial introduction of broadband DSL and cable modems during 2003–2004 increased levels of inequality" This is because a new kind of connectivity is never introduced instantaneously and uniformly to society as a whole at once, but diffuses slowly through social networks As shown by the Figure, during the mid-2000s, communication capacity was more unequally distributed than during the late 1980s, when only fixed-line phones existed The most recent increase in digital equality stems from the massive diffusion of the latest digital innovations ie fixed and mobile broadband infrastructures, eg 3G and fiber optics FTTH As shown in the Figure, Internet access in terms of bandwidth is more unequally distributed in 2014 as it was in the mid-1990s

In the United States

Main article: Internet in the United States

In the United States, billions of dollars have been invested in efforts to narrow the digital divide and bring Internet access to more people in low-income and rural areas of the United States Internet availability varies widely state by state in the US In 2011 for example, 871% of all New Hampshire residents lived in a household where Internet was available, ranking first in the nation Meanwhile, 614% of all Mississippi residents lived in a household where Internet was available, ranking last in the nation The Obama administration has continued this commitment to narrowing the digital divide through the use of stimulus funding The National Center for Education Statistics reported that 98% of all US classroom computers had Internet access in 2008 with roughly one computer with Internet access available for every three students The percentage and ratio of students to computers was the same for rural schools 98% and 1 computer for every 29 students

Rural access

Main article: Broadband universal service

One of the great challenges for Internet access in general and for broadband access in particular is to provide service to potential customers in areas of low population density, such as to farmers, ranchers, and small towns In cities where the population density is high, it is easier for a service provider to recover equipment costs, but each rural customer may require expensive equipment to get connected While 66% of Americans had an Internet connection in 2010, that figure was only 50% in rural areas, according to the Pew Internet & American Life Project Virgin Media advertised over 100 towns across the United Kingdom "from Cwmbran to Clydebank" that have access to their 100 Mbit/s service

Wireless Internet Service Provider WISPs are rapidly becoming a popular broadband option for rural areas The technology's line-of-sight requirements may hamper connectivity in some areas with hilly and heavily foliated terrain However, the Tegola project, a successful pilot in remote Scotland, demonstrates that wireless can be a viable option

The Broadband for Rural Nova Scotia initiative is the first program in North America to guarantee access to "100% of civic addresses" in a region It is based on Motorola Canopy technology As of November 2011, under 1000 households have reported access problems Deployment of a new cell network by one Canopy provider Eastlink was expected to provide the alternative of 3G/4G service, possibly at a special unmetered rate, for areas harder to serve by Canopy

A rural broadband initiative in New Zealand is a joint project between Vodafone and Chorus, with Chorus providing the fibre infrastructure and Vodafone providing wireless broadband, supported by the fibre backhaul

Access as a civil or human right

Further information: Digital rights and Right to Internet access

The actions, statements, opinions, and recommendations outlined below have led to the suggestion that Internet access itself is or should become a civil or perhaps a human right

Several countries have adopted laws requiring the state to work to ensure that Internet access is broadly available and/or preventing the state from unreasonably restricting an individual's access to information and the Internet:

  • Costa Rica: A 30 July 2010 ruling by the Supreme Court of Costa Rica stated: "Without fear of equivocation, it can be said that these technologies have impacted the way humans communicate, facilitating the connection between people and institutions worldwide and eliminating barriers of space and time At this time, access to these technologies becomes a basic tool to facilitate the exercise of fundamental rights and democratic participation e-democracy and citizen control, education, freedom of thought and expression, access to information and public services online, the right to communicate with government electronically and administrative transparency, among others This includes the fundamental right of access to these technologies, in particular, the right of access to the Internet or World Wide Web"
  • Estonia: In 2000, the parliament launched a massive program to expand access to the countryside The Internet, the government argues, is essential for life in the 21st century
  • Finland: By July 2010, every person in Finland was to have access to a one-megabit per second broadband connection, according to the Ministry of Transport and Communications And by 2015, access to a 100 Mbit/s connection
  • France: In June 2009, the Constitutional Council, France's highest court, declared access to the Internet to be a basic human right in a strongly-worded decision that struck down portions of the HADOPI law, a law that would have tracked abusers and without judicial review automatically cut off network access to those who continued to download illicit material after two warnings
  • Greece: Article 5A of the Constitution of Greece states that all persons has a right to participate in the Information Society and that the state has an obligation to facilitate the production, exchange, diffusion, and access to electronically transmitted information
  • Spain: Starting in 2011, Telefónica, the former state monopoly that holds the country's "universal service" contract, has to guarantee to offer "reasonably" priced broadband of at least one megabyte per second throughout Spain

In December 2003, the World Summit on the Information Society WSIS was convened under the auspice of the United Nations After lengthy negotiations between governments, businesses and civil society representatives the WSIS Declaration of Principles was adopted reaffirming the importance of the Information Society to maintaining and strengthening human rights:

1 We, the representatives of the peoples of the world, assembled in Geneva from 10–12 December 2003 for the first phase of the World Summit on the Information Society, declare our common desire and commitment to build a people-centred, inclusive and development-oriented Information Society, where everyone can create, access, utilize and share information and knowledge, enabling individuals, communities and peoples to achieve their full potential in promoting their sustainable development and improving their quality of life, premised on the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations and respecting fully and upholding the Universal Declaration of Human Rights 3 We reaffirm the universality, indivisibility, interdependence and interrelation of all human rights and fundamental freedoms, including the right to development, as enshrined in the Vienna Declaration We also reaffirm that democracy, sustainable development, and respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms as well as good governance at all levels are interdependent and mutually reinforcing We further resolve to strengthen the rule of law in international as in national affairs

The WSIS Declaration of Principles makes specific reference to the importance of the right to freedom of expression in the "Information Society" in stating:

4 We reaffirm, as an essential foundation of the Information Society, and as outlined in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, that everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; that this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers Communication is a fundamental social process, a basic human need and the foundation of all social organisation It is central to the Information Society Everyone, everywhere should have the opportunity to participate and no one should be excluded from the benefits of the Information Society offers"

A poll of 27,973 adults in 26 countries, including 14,306 Internet users, conducted for the BBC World Service between 30 November 2009 and 7 February 2010 found that almost four in five Internet users and non-users around the world felt that access to the Internet was a fundamental right 50% strongly agreed, 29% somewhat agreed, 9% somewhat disagreed, 6% strongly disagreed, and 6% gave no opinion

The 88 recommendations made by the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression in a May 2011 report to the Human Rights Council of the United Nations General Assembly include several that bear on the question of the right to Internet access:

67 Unlike any other medium, the Internet enables individuals to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds instantaneously and inexpensively across national borders By vastly expanding the capacity of individuals to enjoy their right to freedom of opinion and expression, which is an “enabler” of other human rights, the Internet boosts economic, social and political development, and contributes to the progress of humankind as a whole In this regard, the Special Rapporteur encourages other Special Procedures mandate holders to engage on the issue of the Internet with respect to their particular mandates 78 While blocking and filtering measures deny users access to specific content on the Internet, States have also taken measures to cut off access to the Internet entirely The Special Rapporteur considers cutting off users from Internet access, regardless of the justification provided, including on the grounds of violating intellectual property rights law, to be disproportionate and thus a violation of article 19, paragraph 3, of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights 79 The Special Rapporteur calls upon all States to ensure that Internet access is maintained at all times, including during times of political unrest 85 Given that the Internet has become an indispensable tool for realizing a range of human rights, combating inequality, and accelerating development and human progress, ensuring universal access to the Internet should be a priority for all States Each State should thus develop a concrete and effective policy, in consultation with individuals from all sections of society, including the private sector and relevant Government ministries, to make the Internet widely available, accessible and affordable to all segments of population

Network neutrality