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Broadband Glossary

Broadband Glossary of Terms

Understanding topics related to broadband and connectivity is a challenge for community groups. This glossary of terms, aggregated from a variety of sources, attempts to increase literacy on the topic and to assist community groups in evaluating proposals, feasibility studies, and case studies.  If any terms are missing that you would like defined, please email For additional definitions, please visit

Note: This a quick reference guide. These definitions should not be assumed to be the definition of the terms as written into Vermont law unless specified as such. This guide should not be relied upon as a source of legal authority.

A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, J, K, L, M, N, O, P, Q, R, S, T, U, V, W, X, Y, Z; Sources

Aerial, Underground, and Buried Plant - Above-ground plant includes all the telecommunications equipment physically located on or above the ground. This includes enclosures such as huts, cabinets, and pedestals, and the equipment mounted therein. It also includes pole-mounted equipment and cases, and pole-line hardware. Buried plant consists of telecommunications equipment such as cables, splice closures, lower parts of pedestals, and grounding systems directly buried in the soil. Buried plant can be exposed to the same corrosive environment as underground plant. In addition, attack by gophers can expose underlying components to corrosion attack.

Act 79 of 2019 -This act amends existing law and establishes new programs related to the deployment of broadband service in Vermont. For example, it increases the Universal Service Rate of Charge by four-tenths of one percent and uses the additional revenue raised to fund a new position within the Department of Public Service as well as grants through the Connectivity Initiative, it increases the speed requirements for eligibility for funding through both the High-Cost Program and the Connectivity Initiative to 25/3 Mbps, it changes the Vermont Universal Service Fund Rate of Charge collection method applicable to prepaid wireless telecommunications service, it establishes the Broadband Innovation Grant Program within the Department of Public Service, it requires the Department of Public Service to study the feasibility of electric companies providing broadband service using electric company infrastructure, it repeals the prohibition on electric cooperatives receiving federal funds for unregulated activities, it allows municipalities to enter into public-private partnerships with private Internet service providers, it establishes the Broadband Expansion Loan Program within the Vermont Economic Development Authority, it amends Vermont’s pole attachment rule, it adds additional data and analysis requirements applicable to the State’s 10-year Telecommunications Plan and specifies that a new plan shall be adopted every three years

ADSL (Asymmetrical Digital Subscriber Line) - A form of Internet service communications technology that delivers constantly accessible data transmissions over copper telephone lines. ADSL is a common brand of DSL and has download speeds between 2 and 6 Mbps and upload speeds reaching 512 Kbps.

Asymmetrical Bandwidth - A connection in which the maximum transfer rate is different for download and upload speeds.

Attachment - any attachment by a cable television system or provider of telecommunications service to a pole owned or controlled by a utility. 47 CFR § 1.1411(a)(1)

Backhaul - is the connection or the company providing the from a local fiber buildout to the global Internet.

Bandwidth - The capability of telecommunications and Internet networks to transmit data and signals.

Bond - A fixed-income security in which a borrower borrows money from an investor for a specified period of time at fixed or variable interest rate.

Broadband - The term broadband commonly refers to high-speed Internet access that is always on and faster than traditional dial-up access. Broadband includes several high-speed transmission technologies, such as fiber, wireless, satellite, digital subscriber line and cable. For the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), broadband capability requires consumers to have access to actual download speeds of at least 25 Mbps and actual upload speeds of at least 3 Mbps.

Broadband Adoption - The use of broadband in places where it is available, measured as the percentage of households that use broadband in such areas.

Backbone - A high-fiber count fiber optic mainline that provides connectivity to the internet. Connections to buildings from the backbone are called lateral connections.

Backhaul - In a telecommunications network, the backhaul portion of the network comprises the intermediate links between the core network, or backbone network, and the small subnetworks at the edge of the network.

Cable Line ExtensionVermont’s Public Utility Commission’s cable line extension rule (PUC Rule 8.313is a proven process for rationally allocating costs between service providers and consumers. To ensure that cable operators are able to recover the capital investment required for line extensions, the rule employs a formula to apportion capital costs between the cable provider and affected cable subscribers on a sliding scale based on subscriber density.

Capital cost - One-time setup cost of a plant or project, after which there will only be recurring operational or running costs.

Capital Lease Agreement - A capital lease is a contract entitling a renter to the temporary use of an asset, and such a lease has the economic characteristics of asset ownership for accounting purposes. The capital lease requires a renter to book assets and liabilities associated with the lease if the rental contract meets specific requirements. In essence, a capital lease is considered a purchase of an asset, while an operating lease is handled as a true lease under generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP). Criteria for a capital lease.

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.

Census Block - The smallest level of geography designated by the U.S. Census Bureau, which may approximate actual city street blocks in urban areas. In rural districts, census blocks may span larger geographical areas to cover a more dispersed population.

Coaxial Cable (DOCSIS) – Coaxial cable can also be used to provide wireline broadband services with typical speeds of 160 Mbps downstream and 120 Mbps upstream that can be shared by a large number of subscribers. Most Cable Television (CATV) providers like Comcast rely on COAX cables. The CATV industry has implemented standards called Data Over Cable Service Interface Specifications (DOCSIS), which defines how the COAX network can be used to deliver broadband services to their customers. It is important to note that the CATV coax networks are shared – meaning a single cable leaving the CATV headend is split many times to serve many customers. Often, a single cable will provide broadband and/or video to hundreds of customers. This architecture worked well for broadcast video services, since it was a “one-to-many” service, but has limitations when delivering services such as broadband, where each customer requires their own unique connection.

Competitive Local Exchange Carrier (CLEC) – The term and concept coined by the Telecommunications Act of 1996 for any new local phone company that was formed to compete with the ILEC (Incumbent Local Exchange Carrier). A company that offers local telephone service in competition with the legacy telephone company.

Communication Service Drop –  Communications cable from Attacher’s existing attachment to a new customer’s premises for the sole purpose of providing service to the new customer.

Communications space -  the lower usable space on a utility pole, which is typically reserved for low-voltage communications equipment. 47 CFR § 1.1402(r). The lowest zone on a Pole, located immediately below the Communications Workers Safety Zone. The Communications Space is used primarily for the placement of cable television, broadband, fiber, and telephone wires used to deliver communications services.

Communication Workers Safety Zone –  The safety zone, also called the “neutral” space, is the space between the lowest supply conductor or equipment and the highest communication cables or equipment. Spacing requirements for Communication Workers Safety Zone and other workers are specified by the National Electrical Safety Code. 

Communications Plant - as defined in 24 V.S.A. § 1911 shall mean any and all parts of any communications system owned by the municipality, whether using wires, cables, fiber optics, wireless, other technologies, or a combination thereof, and used for the purpose of transporting or storing information, in whatever forms, directions, and media, together with any improvements thereto hereafter constructed or acquired, and all other facilities, equipment, and appurtenances necessary or appropriate to such system. However, the term "communications plant" and any regulatory implications or any restrictions under this chapter regarding either "communications plant" or "communications service" shall not apply to facilities or portions of any communications facilities intended for use by, and solely used by, the municipality and the municipality's own officers and employees in the operation of municipal departments or systems of which such communications are merely an ancillary component.

Communications Service - as defined in 24 V.S.A. § 1911 shall include ownership, operation, and utilization of a communications plant within or without the corporate limits of the municipality to transport or store information in any form and medium.

Communications Union District (CUD) - A Communications Union District allows two or more towns to bond together as a municipal entity for a means of building communication infrastructure together. For more information see Title 30: Public Service, Chapter 82: Communications Union Districts in Vermont state statutes.

Community Anchor Institutions - Schools, libraries, medical and healthcare providers, public safety entities, institutes of higher education and other community support organizations that provide outreach, access, equipment and support services to facilitate greater use of broadband service by the entire population and local governments.

Conduit - A means by which something is transmitted. The conduit houses the fiber.

Connectivity Initiative - The Connectivity Initiative is the only state program addressing broadband development. Funded by proceeds from the Vermont Universal Service Fund, Connectivity Initiative grants are awarded to internet service providers that agree to extend service to designated areas least likely to be served through the private sector or through federal programs.

Cost of operation and maintenance - the expenses for operation, maintenance, repairs, and ordinary replacements properly and directly attributable to the operation or ordinary maintenance of the public utility project.

Contribution-in-aid-of-construction (CIAC) - Term used in evaluating Cable Line Extension Costs. If your location falls within a density zone of 16 confirmed subscribers within a mile, then the cable company will build whatever lines, poles, etc., are needed to bring service to your location at no CIAC cost to you. Many locations do not fall within the density zone and these consumers requesting cable service must contribute toward the costs of line-extension construction.

Dark Fiber - Refers to fiber optic cable that has been installed and is available to use but is not connected to any electronic devices and not transmitting any data. Also referred to as excess capacity.

Demand Aggregation - Strategy employed by network owners to determine the neighborhoods in the community that are most likely to purchase service in order to build there first.

Distribution utilities -Vermont has three types of electric utilities: investor-owned utilities (1), municipal electric departments (14), and member-owned rural electric cooperatives (2). These 17 electric distribution companies range in size from small municipal electric departments with several hundred customers to one large investor-owned utility, Green Mountain Power, with more than 260,000 customers. Source: EIA data (2017).

DSL (Digital Subscriber Line) - A form of technology that utilizes a two-wire copper telephone line to allow users to simultaneously connect to and operate the Internet and the telephone network without disrupting either connection. This wireline technology overlays a broadband signal on existing twisted-pair copper cables. Broadband speeds on DSL networks are dependent on the customer’s distance from electronics in remote terminals or central offices. Modern DSL technologies can typically provide 1 Mbps to 2 Mbps download speeds, depending upon the quality and size of the copper cable. However, for customers served by copper cable that exceeds 18,000 feet in length, the distortion caused by the capacitance of the cable renders the cable unsuitable for quality voice. Telephone companies have historically provided voice service over twisted pairs of copper cable. Consequently, millions of miles of twisted-pair copper cables have been deployed throughout the country. However, most service providers have concluded that DSL is near the end of its useful life and will not be a longterm solution for broadband delivery. Therefore, they have been looking to fiber technology to meet the increasing customer demand.

Electric Safety Space -  Also known as the  “electric power zone”, “energized space”, “electric space,”  “supply space,” or “electrical supply zone” is located in the uppermost area of a pole, where electrical equipment (including electric distribution cables, transformers, and capacitors) is found. Supply space wiring may include different voltages and often consists of non-insulated conductors. For safety reasons, the highest voltages are in the highest position on the pole. Only authorized electrical workers can work in or above the supply space.

FCC Connect America Fund (CAF) Phase II program - Through CAF Phase II, the FCC provides funding to service providers to subsidize the cost of building new network infrastructure or performing network upgrades to provide voice and broadband service in areas where it is lacking.

Fiber (Also referred to as Fiber Strand or Fiber Optic Cable) - A flexible hair-thin glass or plastic strand that is capable of transmitting large amounts of data at high transfer rates as pulses or waves of light.

Fiber-to-the-Premise (FTTP) or Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) - A last-mile network that connects all buildings (residential, business and government) in a community.

Fiber to the Premises (FTTP) – This wireline technology serves all customers by a fiber optic cable. Most FTTP equipment allows between 70 Mbps and 1 Gbps of broadband to each customer and is capable of serving customers that are more than twelve miles from the central office or electronic field terminal locations.

Fixed Wireless Broadband Access - The use of wireless devices/systems in connecting two fixed locations, such as offices or homes. The connections occur through the air, rather than through fiber, resulting in a less expensive alternative to a fiber connection.

General Obligation Bonds - The bond principal and interest are secured by the full faith and credit of the issuer and supported by the issuer’s taxing authority (property taxes).

GPON Architecture - Gigabit Passive Optical Network – a passive optical network (PON) is a system that brings optical fiber cabling and signals all or most of the way to the premise of a subscriber.

Hybrid Fiber-Coax (HFC) -  a network that combines some fiber-optic elements (typically from the head end to a node in the field) and coaxial cable (typically the loop that connects the node to subscribers).

Incumbent Local Exchange Carrier (ILEC) – The dominant local phone carrier within a geographical area. Section 252 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 defines Incumbent Local Exchange Carrier as a carrier that, as of the date of enactment of the Act, provided local exchange service to a specific area; for example, Verizon, Windstream, and Frontier. In contrast, Competitive Access Providers (CAPs) and competitive local exchange carriers (CLECs) are companies that compete against the ILECs in local service areas.

Independent System Operator (ISO) – An organization that coordinates, controls, and monitors the operation of the electrical power system, either within a single state or across multiple states.

Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) - ITS improves transportation safety and mobility and enhances American productivity through the integration of advanced communications technologies into the transportation infrastructure and in vehicles. Intelligent transportation systems (ITS) encompass a broad range of wireless and wireline communications-based information and electronics technologies.

Internet of things/IoT - Reference to Internet-connected devices — anything from laptops and smartphones to “smart” streetlights or thermostats.

Internet Service Provider (ISP) - A company that provides users (individuals or businesses) with access (a connection) to the Internet and related services

Last-Mile Network - Network that provides services directly to homes and businesses in the community.

Latency - Term used to indicate the delay that happens in data communication over a network.

“Make-ready” - the modification or replacement of a utility pole, or of lines or equipment on the utility pole, to accommodate additional facilities on the utility pole. 47 CFR §1.1402(o).

Middle-Mile Network - Typically defined as a network that serves community anchor institutions (i.e. schools, libraries, government buildings, public safety agencies, hospitals, etc.) but does not directly serve homes and businesses.

Net revenues - Revenues less cost of operation and maintenance.

One-Touch Make-Ready - OTMR allows a pre-approved contractor to move cables belonging to more than one entity on one visit to the pole to make room for the new fiber optic cable.

Open-Access Network - A network where the infrastructure assets (conduit and fiber) are made available through leases to multiple non-network owners that meet the terms and conditions set.

Over the Top (OTT) - Television provided over a data stream but utilizing the existing wiring to the household

Overbuild - To create a network that goes into competition with an incumbent provider. For broadband, this often refers to deploy fiber where cable exists.

USDA Rural Development Broadband ReConnect Program - The Broadband ReConnect Program furnishes loans and grants to provide funds for the costs of construction, improvement, or acquisition of facilities and equipment needed to provide broadband service in eligible rural areas. 

Pole Survey - The pole survey process involves technical evaluations of each pole, including taking photographs and height measurements, determining their overall condition through engineering analysis and placing their precise locations through GPS technology.

Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs) - A legal partnership created by two or more public and private partners that balances and apportions risk, benefit, and control of a last-mile network.

Project - an undertaking for the acquisition, construction, reconstruction, improvement, financing, enlargement, extension, or betterment of any of the following public utility systems

Promissory Note - sets out the repayment terms when you borrow money

Revenue bond - The bond principal and interest are secured by the revenues earned from the governmental activity being financed. Vermont statutes (24 V.S.A. § 1913) limit revenue bonds to certain public/municipal utilities.

Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) - On August 1, 2019, the FCC Commission adopted a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) proposing to establish the $20.4 billion RDOF which will target at least 4 million rural homes and small businesses that lack fixed broadband service.  The NPRM seeks comment on conducting a reverse auction that builds on the success of the CAF Phase II auction.

Rural Economic Development Initiative (REDI) District - The Rural Economic Development Initiative (REDI), a program of the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board, helps rural communities access the funding they need for community and business development.

Self-help procedures for attachments to utility poles - OTMR and self-help allow attaching entities to do some utility pole preparation work using qualified contractors and to take over pole-preparation work if certain deadlines are not met.  The provisions are similar to recent revisions to the Federal Communications Commission’s (“FCC”) rules on pole attachments, which apply in states that have elected not to regulate pole attachments. Vermont Pole Attachment Rules.

Service territories - Towns or portions of towns served by a provider.  Electric Utility Service Areas; Cable Service Areas; Telephone Service Areas.

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.

Take Rate - The number of subscribers to a service - typically expressed in a percentage of those taking the service divided by the total number of people who could take the service.  

Telemedicine - The use of high-speed, high-capacity Internet to support long-distance healthcare services, patient and provider education and enhanced healthcare administration.

Unserved – Those housing units without access to a broadband network capable of offering service that meets the National Broadband Availability Target.

Verified Subscriber - For the purposes of Cable Line Extension requests, a "verified subscriber" is a person whose residence or business is in an unserved area who makes a binding commitment to purchase cable service from a cable company for a minimum period of two years, or a lesser period required by the cable company, or pays an amount equivalent to one year of service in advance. 

VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) - A technology that allows users to send and receive voice calls using an Internet connection instead of a phone line.

Wireless ISP (WISP) - An Internet service provider that provides fixed or mobile wireless services to its customers. Using Wi-Fi or proprietary wireless methods, WISPs provide last mile access, often in rural areas and areas in and around smaller cities and towns.


Partial List of Sources:

Federal Communications Commission (FCC) - National Broadband Plan (Appendices B and C)
The Vermont Statutes Online: The Vermont Statutes Online
Broadband USA Broadband Glossary

Lyndon, Vermont Broadband Feasibility Report
Vermont Bond Bank
Vermont Housing & Conservation Board Rural Economic Development Initiative
Community Broadband Networks
Pole Attachment Terminology, Orlando Utilities Commission