Last mile access is the delivery of content for the “last mile” or “last kilometer”. This is the distance from an Internet service provider (ISP) to the end consumer.
In this definition, the end consumer is a residential customer or business office. They are receiving an Internet connection from an ISP. A service provider would be Deutsche Telekom (Germany), AT&T (United States), Verizon (United States), etc. Your ISP will be dependent upon the country you live in.
Last Mile Internet Access Technology
Last mile Internet technology comes in many forms. Currently it is a race to provide the fastest Internet speed. The technology that companies use to connect the Internet over the last mile has evolved over time. We currently have the following technologies available.
- Plain Old Telephone systems (POTS)
- ISDN, which is faster than a phone service
- DSL (Digital Subscriber Line), which utilizes existing telephone lines
- Cable and cable modem, which is utilizing cable TV lines
- Wireless, which is satellite service providers
- Fiber Optic Technology, which companies are currently racing to upgrade
Why Is Last Mile Access Important?
The conversation around last mile access is important in relation to Internet speed. For most areas and people receiving an Internet connection, this is the section of access you have the least control over. Control in that you control the connection speed. Upgrades in technology and increased bandwidth provide the ability to increase the speed of your connection.
The discussion is also important with regards to artificial congestion. Artificial congestion relates to last mile access providers. They will “artificially congest” Internet traffic to the end consumer. This can be seen publicly with Netflix and various ISP’s. The claim from free Internet advocates is ISP’s restrict the speed of certain content providers to extract more money from them. The result is that the end consumer is negatively affected.
Regardless, the last mile is an important discussion as it relates to Internet speed to the user.
The Last Mile Access Debate
Last mile access can cause a heated debate. You can see this on any Reddit forum related to the issue. This aside, last mile access becomes a conversation about net neutrality.
Net neutrality relates to an open and free network. A working definition is as follows:
“Net Neutrality means an Internet that enables and protects free speech. It means that Internet service providers should provide us with open networks — and should not block or discriminate against any applications or content that ride over those networks. Just as your phone company shouldn’t decide who you can call and what you say on that call, your ISP shouldn’t be concerned with the content you view or post online.” – savetheinternet.com
Last mile access, Internet speed, and artificial congestion come full circle to net neutrality. This is a larger debate in itself. A debate, which in the United States involves the FCC. We have reserved this for another post on net neutrality.
Last mile access is becoming a larger debate with regards to Internet speed and Internet freedom. Performance and network optimization are the keys to finding a solution.