Cable internet is a type of broadband internet access which uses optical fibre rather than copper telephone lines or wireless. It uses the same infrastructure as is used to provide cable television and it is generally bundled for the user in the form of cable TV and internet packages.
The principal advantage of cable internet over internet provided over telephone lines, for instance using ADSL, is the connection speed. Whilst ADSL is pushed to provide broadband speeds much in excess of 10 Mbps (Megabits per second), cable can provide broadband speeds over and order of magnitude faster. 100 Mbps is currently available to many users and 200 Mbps and even 300 Mbps is expected to be available in the not too distant future. Even those speeds are not the limit either; eventually cable internet users can anticipate speeds of 1 Gbps or even higher.
The problem with cable internet is that it is not available to everyone, particularly for people who live in more rural locations. Around 80% of homes in the UK are able to receive cable and although the number is growing on a daily basis, it will be some time before cable is capable of generally replacing copper.
If you are unfortunate to live in an area that does not have cable broadband or does not seem to be getting it in the foreseeable future, then your only options are ADSL or wireless. Fortunately ADSL technologies are much better than just a few years ago. ADSL2+ is the latest innovation in broadband access over copper lines, and it is capable of delivering broadband speeds of up to 25 Mbps, but again not for all users. The broadband speed falls off with the distance between the provider and user, and if you are very remote from the provider then your speed will be very limited.
There are plans afoot to improve broadband access to rural areas using wireless technology. When the switch over from analogue to digital TV has been completed, the radio frequency bands currently used for analogue TV will be licences to mobile network suppliers for 4G mobile communications. Some of the lower end frequencies will be used for reaching rural users and the higher end for urban users. Theoretically this should mean that high speed broadband will become available to all, and speeds as high as 1 Gbps are being talked about; however from experience with current 3G connectivity, the reality of broadband speeds always seem to fall far short of the theoretical.
If it seems unfair that urban dwellers are not able to access the same sort of broadband speeds that are available in larger conurbations, then that it because it is unfair. As all of our lives and businesses become increasingly dependent on high speed broadband we are in danger of creating a two speed economy, which can’t be good for the economic and social future of the UK.