This glossary is provided as a reader aid to help our website users understand the common terminology and acronyms they will find on our website. It is not a complete list of broadband terminology. Please contact us if you have any questions about terms that use on our site.

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Backhaul: The telecommunications link used to transport traffic from a geographically distant point, such as a wireless base station, to a significant aggregation point in the network, such as a mobile telephone switching office or Internet peering point.

Bluetooth: An industry standard using unlicensed radio frequency spectrum for wireless connectivity over short distances to link computers, wireless handsets, and other devices.

Broadband: High-speed Internet access that is always on and faster than the traditional dial-up access. The Federal Communications Commission defines basic broadband as transmission speeds of at least 25 Mbps download and 3 Mbps upload. 


Carrier of last resort: The carrier that commits (or is required by law) to provide service to any customer in a service area that requests it, even if serving that customer would not be economically viable at prevailing rates.

Census block: The smallest geographic unit for which the Census Bureau collects and tabulates decennial census data.

Census tract: A small, relatively permanent statistical subdivision of a county, designed to contain roughly 1,000 to 8,000 people who are relatively homogeneous with respect to their demographics, economic status and living conditions.

Common carrier: A telecommunications provider, such as a telephone company, that offers its services for a fee to the public indiscriminately.

Competitive Local Exchange Carrier (CLEC): A company that offers local telephone service in competition with the legacy telephone company.


Dark fiber: A fiber optic cable that is laid and ready for use, but for which the service provider has not provided modulating electronics; usually contrasted to lit fiber, which is fiber optic cable in use to provide wired communications.

Data Over Cable Service Interface Specification (DOCSIS): A standard for the transmission of data over a cable network.

Digital divide: The economic, educational, and social inequalities between those who have computers and online access and those who do not. 

Digital equity: A state in which all individuals and communities have the information technology capacity needed for full participation in our society, democracy and economy.

Digital inclusion: Activities necessary to ensure that all individuals and communities have access to information and communication technologies, and the literacy and resilience to use them. Digital inclusion ultimately leads to digital equity.

Digital resilience: The awareness, skills, agility, and confidence to be empowered users of new technologies and adapt to changing digital skill demands.

Digital literacy: The ability to use information and communication technologies to find, evaluate, create, and communicate information, requiring both cognitive and technical skills.


Ethernet: A type of digital transmission service. Traditionally, Ethernet operates at 10 megabits per second (Mbps) (also known as 10-Base-T), although 100-Base-T (100 Mbps) and Gigabit (1,000 Mbps) Ethernet are also available.


FCC: Federal Communications Commission


Intelligent Transportation System (ITS): A broad range of advanced communications technologies that, when integrated into transportation infrastructure and vehicles, relieves congestion, improves safety, and mitigates environmental impact.


Modem: A piece of customer premise equipment typically managed by a broadband provider as the last connection point to the managed network.


Next Generation 911 (NG911): An emergency response system that integrates the core functionalities of the E911 system and also supports multimedia communications (such as texting, e-mail, and video) to the PSAP and to emergency personnel on the ground.

Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM): A notice containing a proposal for adoption of new rules. The Administrative Procedure Act (APA) requires that an agency, before promulgating a binding rule, must publish general notice of its proposal in the Federal Register.


Open source: A software development model by which the source code to a computer program is made available publicly under a license that gives users the right to modify and redistribute the program.


Point of Presence: A physical location where a communications carrier allows other carriers to access its network.

Pole attachment: Any attachment by a cable television system or provider of communications service to a pole, duct, conduit, or right-of-way owned or controlled by a utility.

Propagation model:  an empirical mathematical formulation for the characterization of radio wave propagation as a function of frequency, distance and other conditions.

Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP): A call center responsible for answering emergency calls and dispatching emergency services.

Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN): The legacy circuit-switched telephone network.


Remote patient monitoring: Using devices and communications networks to remotely collect and send diagnostic data to a monitoring station for interpretation. For example, measuring blood pressure when a patient is at home.

Right-of-way: The right to pass over or occupy a particular piece of land. For example, utilities generally receive rights-of-way from municipalities to erect and wire poles to carry electricity, telecommunications services, and cable service.


Service Level Agreement (SLA): An agreement between a user and a service provider defining the nature of the service provided and establishing metrics for that service, trouble reporting procedures and penalties if the service provider fails to perform.

Smart Grid: The electric delivery network, from electrical generation to end-use customer, integrated with sensors, software, and two-way communications technologies to improve grid reliability, security, and efficiency.

Smart meter: A digital meter (typically electric) located on the customer premises that records energy usage and has two-way communications capabilities with utility systems.


Telecommunications Relay Service (TRS): A telephone service that enables persons with TTYs, individuals who use sign language and people who have speech and hearing disabilities to use telephone services by having a third party transmit and translate a call. Consumers can access these services by using, for example, video phones, computers, web-enabled devices, captioned telephones, and TTYs.

Transport: The transmission facilities between the wire center or switch of an incumbent local exchange carrier and the wire center or switch of another carrier.