Listen to this article

“You can never be too rich ...” according to Wallace Simpson. Apply that to internet bandwidth, of which you can never have too much.

Given the choice of a dirt road, concrete two-lane or the German autobahn, which would you choose? Rural residents lack a choice, although Champaign County farm roads far surpass most other rural areas.

Urban and now suburban people enjoy ample choices in their internet connections, while farmers remain constrained by the current internet equivalent of a gravel road.

Broadband internet lacks a workable definition. Some internet service providers play fast and loose with the word broadband.

Wikipedia defines broadband as “any high-speed Internet access that is always on and faster than dial-up access over traditional analog [lines].”

The FCC, the government body in charge of defining broadband, finally announced that it considers minimum broadband a download speed of 25 megabits per second (mbps) and upload speed of 3 mbps. Until recently, most people were unconcerned about upload speeds. Now in the age of working from home, upload speeds matter. However, current FCC Chairman Agit Pai would prefer to lower the standard to a download speed of 10 mbps. At that speed, you probably would not enjoy HD Netflix.

Without a true standardized definition, the term “broadband” lacks real meaning. Other parameters never publicized by internet service providers, such as “latency,” also factor into the quality of service.

The fastest broadband crawls if the server containing the requested data can’t meet demand or lacks internet bandwidth.

If all of your block watches HD Netflix or decides to Zoom conference at the same time, everyone’s speeds will suffer. If four members of your household all game or Skype or Netflix simultaneously, your speed will slow.

Thus, paying for 1 gigabit per second (1 gig) internet service helps immensely, but you rarely realize that speed. It does guarantee that all of your family can fully enjoy all those services at once.

The FCC’s specification of a minimum of 25 mbps defines a floor for broadband. However, in current times, I would raise that to 50 mbps down and 25 mbps up.

Recently Rise Broadband sent a solicitation for its wireless internet service for $30 a month for 25 mbps down. It does not specify up speed. Also it does not specify the data cap, other than to say you can have unlimited data for $20 additional per month. Also, the promotional rate of $30 only applies for a year and then increases to $40.

Meanwhile, I’ve been paying Mediacom $80 a month for 70 mbps down and 3 mbps up, under a grandfathered plan. Trying to decipher its website, apparently that currently should now cost $50 a month, but only for the first year.

Great cheering erupted on my block when CCG/Pavlov and Volo began laying fiber optic cable.

If there’s anything my neighbors agree upon it’s an intense dislike of Mediacom for its shoddy customer service and exorbitant prices.

CCG offers 1 gig service (down and up) for $69 a month for the first year with unlimited data. Volo offers a laddered 1 gig plan, based on usage and other variables, but undersells CCG. It also will lock down its rates if subscribers make an extended commitment. Fiber internet is the equivalent of the German autobahn.

One of my neighbors rents an office on the main street of town less than 2 miles away. Yet, he relates that CCG wants to charge him $120 a month for service slower than 100 mbps. That sounds like highway robbery.

These companies can afford to lay fiber in small towns because they spent your tax dollars. The federal government allocated a sizable sum for providing rural broadband. Since some small town ZIP codes encompass miles of area, it was easy to qualify towns as “rural.” Unfortunately, the rural residents just outside of town still live on the dirt roads of the information age.

Rich Warren, who lives in the Champaign area, is a longtime reviewer of consumer electronics. Email him at hifiguy@volo.net.