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Different types of internet connections, speeds and affordability options

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In today’s world, internet access is vital in many areas of life, including education, work and entertainment. Although having internet service is one of the necessary components of supporting evolving technology like virtual reality (VR), it is also needed for essential day-to-day activities, like remote work and online classes. But even if you have access, poor reliability or speed can create challenges.

Not having reliable internet access, of course, could cause a student to miss a submission deadline, or an employee to lose connection during an important conference call.  But reliability alone isn’t enough; the speed of a connection also matters. According to the Federal Communications Commission, lack of access to high speed internet may limit educational opportunities in rural areas. Compared to those in urban areas, students in rural areas may lack the high-speed service necessary to be a part of the remote learning experience. All this said, just having access to the internet at home can be a challenge for many, especially in rural areas.

To help combat this lack of access some areas and/or individuals may face, some corporate entities, non-profits, and government agencies are working to provide resources to help facilitate internet access.

Types of internet connectivity

Depending on your location, you might have access to different types of internet connectivity options. This can be due to the existing infrastructure within your community, or it could be related to internet access options at your home vs. at work or school. Some of the more common types of internet connectivity include:

  • Fiber-based internet connectivity: Fiber internet options, like Verizon Fios, use fiber optic cables to quickly transfer large amounts of data.
  • Cable-based internet connectivity: This type of high-speed internet uses existing cable TV infrastructure.
  • DSL: A digital subscriber line is an older form of internet that utilizes phone lines.
  • Fixed wireless: Fixed wireless access uses mobile networks, like 4G LTE and Verizon 5G Ultra Wideband, to provide internet access via radio or other wireless link.
  • Satellite internet: This type of internet connectivity uses communication satellites to transfer data.
  • Dial-Up: Dial-up is an older type of internet connectivity that uses a standard phone line.

When you’re trying to determine which type of internet connectivity will be best for you, you’ll want to consider several factors, including your budget, your location and your typical usage.

Factors that affect internet quality

There are several different factors that can influence the overall quality of your internet connection and your experience utilizing it. When you’re considering the form of internet connectivity that is right for you, you’ll want to be sure to understand some key concepts outlined below.

Internet speed

The speed of your internet connection can have a big impact on your internet experience and the tasks you can accomplish. To get the best internet experience, you should consider your personal internet needs and compare available options.


Bandwidth refers to the data transfer capacity within a certain period and is typically measured in Mbps or Kbps. In terms of an internet connection, it determines how much data can be processed and transferred through your internet network. Generally speaking, the greater the bandwidth, the faster the internet speed.

However, this could be impacted by how much data you are transferring across your network. Transferring large files or streaming high-definition video can use large amounts of data and strain your network.


According to the FCC, the definition of broadband internet is a minimum of 25 Mbps download and 3 Mbps upload speeds. There are many types of broadband connections, including fiber internet, fixed wireless internet and satellite internet. Therefore, if you want high-speed internet, you must have some sort of broadband connection.


Most internet users are generally familiar with devices like modems and routers. A modem uses a wide-area network (WAN) to bring the internet into the home. A router generates a local area network (LAN) to bring the internet to a collection of devices. Both of these devices can incorporate the use of Wi-Fi, which is a type of wireless technology. It is used by Wi-Fi capable devices to connect to the internet via the wireless router. Many factors could affect the speed of Wi-Fi, such as:

  • The Wi-Fi technology you’re using;
  • The distance between your router and your adapter;
  • The activation of power saver modes;
  • The quality of the router’s antenna;
  • The placement of the router (including any structures that obstruct the signal);
  • Pending updates for firmware;
  • The amount of data being transferred;
  • Other devices’ use of the same frequency, such as baby monitors.

Both the quality of your Wi-Fi and your internet choice determines the speed of your internet connection. This could include choosing between 4G and 5G for your home or personal internet.

Free internet options

Although there are plenty of internet connectivity options available, many still struggle to afford access. With that in mind, users have several options, including:

  • Public hotspots and municipal wireless networks: In many communities, there are publicly available internet access options, such as public institutions and libraries. However, you will need to be particularly careful with personal security and safety when utilizing these options.
  • Government subsidy: Subsidies may be available at a federal, state or local level. These are discounts, payments or tax cuts provided by the government. The Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) is just one example that provides financial assistance for internet access based on your income. ACP provides  qualifying households with a $30 per month discount on broadband service ($75 per month on tribal lands). Through the ACP and the Verizon Fios Forward discount, qualifying households can get a 300 Mbps Fios Home Internet plan for free.
  • Community mesh networks: This is a form of a decentralized community network that utilizes a group of devices to create a larger network.

It will also be helpful to look into any other options that may be available in your community and specific to your local area.

How to find low-cost internet connectivity

Generally speaking, there are a variety of steps you can take to find low-cost internet options, depending on your background. If you find that you’re intimidated by all the necessary applications needed to qualify for previously mentioned free internet options, you can break down the process with the following steps:

  • Research low-cost options offered in your community
  • Consider low-cost programs through your ISP such as Verizon Lifeline or the ACP
  • Find someone that you can share the cost with
  • Consider switching to a more affordable internet service

Options for assistance may also vary based on your location and income.

Assistance options for families and households

Families and households with more than one member may be uniquely qualified for low-cost internet access. Many households have parents who work from home and/or young students who require internet access for schoolwork.

Grants and assistance programs are available to increase this access to members of every household, including:

Additionally, if you qualify for the following programs, you may qualify for assistance with internet access:

Assistance options for students

In the post-pandemic world, internet-based schoolwork has become a routine part of school education. For learners of all ages, assistance options help students obtain internet access, including:

  • On-campus internet access: Most students can get free Wi-Fi on their college campus or other Wi-Fi hotspots.  Note issues of security discussed above.
  • No annual contract internet plans: No annual contract internet plans can be especially good for students who need flexibility.
  • Student deals: Some internet providers offer deals for students.

Students should also research any options specific to their educational institution or community.

Assistance options for senior citizens

Digital illiteracy is common among senior citizens, which combined with a lack of internet access can exacerbate certain health situations or conditions. Not only can senior citizens use the internet as a tool to contact emergency services, but they can also use it to stay connected to family and loved ones. The following assistance options can help senior citizens pay for internet access:

  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI): SSI recipients qualify for assistance with internet access from programs such as ACP or Lifeline.
  • Senior discounts: Some individual providers may offer senior discounts.

With reliable access to the internet, senior citizens can significantly improve their quality of life.

Assistance options for rural communities

Most notably, many government agencies have examined rural communities and their lack of internet access, especially when the pandemic exacerbated the issue of reliably utilizing telehealth or remote school work. In 2021, Congress appropriated $42 billion for the Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) program, to support the deployment of broadband in unserved and underserved rural areas. In addition, many agencies, government or non-profits alike have created assistance programs for those that require broadband or internet access, including the Federal Communications Commission and the U.S. Department of Agriculture:

With these resources, anyone, no matter their location or background, will have a better chance to access information online.