Cheaper, Faster, Better internet, Part Two

By William Post and Audra Caler-Bell | Jan 23, 2020

Camden — This is the second in a series of articles generated by a joint ad hoc working group of Camden and Rockport elected officials, staff and volunteer residents exploring the options for cheaper, faster, better internet service. This series is intended to generate dialogue, initiate questions and help residents and policymakers determine what is best for our respective communities. Please contact your respective Town Managers with comments or questions: William Post (Rockport Town Manager) or Audra Caler-Bell (Camden Town Manager)

Understanding Fiber Bandwidth (Speed)

Bandwidth is the ability of a communications network to carry information. As today’s bandwidth requirements are exploding – whether for tele-healthcare, remote home monitoring, video streaming, photo storage, virtual assistants (Siri), advanced TVs and more – we will need access to increasing amounts of bandwidth in our daily lives.

Most large telecommunications companies focus on “download” speeds but offer very slow “upload” speeds. When we download, we are typically obtaining or consuming information from the internet, whether it’s a video from Netflix, a recipe from Food Network or directions from Google. But when we are sending information over the internet, upload speeds matter a great deal.

For example, home businesses rely on uploading – think about the local wedding photographer sending photos to her client. Telecommuters must have the ability to videoconference with clients and business colleagues. Educational classes and tele-health all require fast upload speeds. Many of us today use the iCloud to back-up our computers, to store photographs and videos or to Skype or Facetime with our family and friends. All of these actions require high upload speeds or bandwidth.

Bandwidth is measured in megabits per second, called “Mbps.” Internet speed measurement can be complicated by the fact that although you may have a high-speed link to your Internet Service Provider (e.g., Spectrum, Verizon, Century Link), you will then have to share the bandwidth with other users. This is why the internet is often slower after work/school hours or on weekends, and also the reason why Internet Service Providers advertise “up to” internet speeds – more often the speeds you actually experience are far less than those advertised.

Another reason for slow internet speeds is the distance between your home or business and the place where the copper meets fiber. Recall that in our first article we likened the trunks of fiber that connect towns in Maine to the interstate at which cars can travel 70 mph. But when they hit copper wire it’s like hitting a poorly maintained dirt road in terms of internet speed. The further your home or business is down this technological dirt road, the slower your internet speeds will be.

Only fiber always delivers the same upload speed as download speed. And fiber speeds are not slowed down by the use of your neighbors or the distance of your home or business from the fiber/copper connection because there is no copper connection. With fiber, bandwidth is reliable and consistent right to your home or business.


Case In Point - hearstudios Makes Music In Camden

Our hope as a community is to have our young people stay, build careers and families, and enjoy and contribute to life here in the Midcoast. Jason Hearst is one of those people who chose to come back to Maine, bringing his family and creating a business in Camden.

Jason’s business, hearstudios, is a professional audio recording facility, located in downtown Camden. Locating his business (which started in his home) depended on reliable, high-speed internet to move large digital audio files around the world. Finding a location that could house both his family and his business while providing the technical infrastructure was not an easy task. In the end, he found a home close to Route 1 and the 3-Ring Binder dark fiber route. He then contracted with a local provider to run the necessary connections to his business.


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