America has some of the worst, most expensive broadband in the developed world, thanks to massive market concentration, grotesque regulatory capture, and systematic underinvestment in crumbling telcoms infrastructure.
Predictably, every time one of the rent-seeking ISP profiteers (or their regulatory water-carriers) is called out on this, they dangle something shiny that they insist will solve all these problems. These days, that's 5G, a technology for delivering wireless broadband to devices close to its antennas that does nothing at all to solve the slow speeds in the lines connecting those towers to one another.
Writing for EFF Deeplinks, Bennett Cyphers and Ernesto Falcon lay out the case for fiber (top speed, 100tbs) and for not believing the 5g (top speed, 10gbs) hype.
Gigabit and faster wireless networks have to rely on high frequency spectrum in order to have sufficient bandwidth to deliver those speeds. But the faster the speed, and the higher the frequency,the more environmental factors such as the weather or physical obstructions interfere with the transmission. Gigabit 5G uses “millimeter wave” frequencies, which can’t travel through doors or walls. In essence, the real world environment adds so much friction to wireless transmissions at high-speeds that any contention that it can replace wireline internet fiber or cable—which contend with few of those barriers due to insulated wires— is suspect.
Meanwhile, fiber systems have at least a 10,000 (yes ten...thousand) fold advantage over cable systems in terms of raw bandwidth. This translates into a massive advantage for data capacity, and it’s why scientists have been able to squeeze more than 100 terabits per second (100,000 Gb/s) down a single fiber. The most advanced cable technology has achieved max speeds of around 10 Gb/s in a lab. Cable has not, and will not, come close to fiber. As we explain in our whitepaper, fiber also has significantly less latency, fewer problems with dropped packets, and will be easier to upgrade in the future.
Why Fiber is Vastly Superior to Cable and 5G [Bennett Cyphers and Ernesto Falcon/EFF]