Bandwidth is purchased from your telecom carrier or last-mile provider. Providers vary city by city -- and, sometimes,...
even block by block. Many providers offer a service called quad play -- which includes voice, television, internet and mobile -- or triple play, which includes voice, TV and internet.
The best option to buy bandwidth would be fiber to the premises, since it usually provides high-speed, high-quality connections to carrier services. DSL, or ADSL outside the U.S., is another option. But this technology is limited by your physical distance across the wire from the central office or provider location.
The next option to buy bandwidth would be cable services, which can have high speeds. But, in some cases, speeds are misleading, since it's shared bandwidth. The speeds offered are the highest you could use, but they're not guaranteed. Because the speeds are shared, you might not see high speeds when you're sharing bandwidth with neighbors who are streaming video, for example.
All carriers can control bandwidth in various ways. A bandwidth manager, for example, assigns speeds to various circuits based on rules the carrier defines. For instance, you could have a higher-speed connection than the person next door.
You could also control the speed at your modem or networking equipment. Not all equipment is equal, and some will be limited to the network speed they select -- this would be true of any Ethernet or passive optical network system. This control could be a hardware or software limitation, or some combination of both.
Normally, you'll buy bandwidth based on the carrier services you negotiate at the time of the contract. However, some carriers will allow you to burst above that speed, or some may throttle you down depending on how much data you use. Many carriers sell unlimited data plans, but will throttle your speeds after you hit a certain data threshold, as seen in AT&T's legal dispute about throttling unlimited data plans.
When you buy bandwidth, make sure you know what services you are getting, how long the contract period is, the number of devices you can connect and any limitations to speed month to month.
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