Glossary of Terms


Asymmetric Digital Subscribers Line- an enhanced DSL service.


Applicant Proposed Measures.


American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

Article 6

Negative Declaration Process.


Broadband Technology Opportunity Program.


Also called middle mile – a communications link from a local region to the Internet backbone.


Bandwidth is a means of describing the capacity of a broadband connection. A high bandwidth connection can support many users at once.BroadbandBroadband is the combination of telephony (voice), video and Internet data on the same carrier. The carrier can be copper, fiber, or wireless (including satellite). Broadband by current (2011) definition has a minimum speed of 4 Mbps download and 1 Mbps upload. ( )


California Advanced Services Fund – Universal Service Fund program of the CPUC to subsidize implementation of broadband in unserved and underserved regions of the state. ( )


California Broadband Task Force – convened by executive order in 2006, report published in early 2008. ( )


California Environmental Quality Act.


The California Emerging Technology Fund (CETF) was established and funded by the SBC-AT&T and Verizon-MCI merger agreements approved by the CPUC in November 2005. This fund will focus on achieving ubiquitous access to broadband and advanced services in California, particularly in underserved communities through the use of existing and emerging technologies.


California Public Utilities Commission

Cable Modem

A device that allows a home or business to connect to the Internet via local cable TV network.

California Broadband Map

The California Broadband Map visualizes advertised service provided by broadband carriers to the California Public Utilities Commission. In at least Mendocino and Sonoma counties, the services advertised by carriers does not correspond well with the services carriers actually provide to consumers on the ground. This map problem freezes unserved and underserved areas of these counties so that the digital divide will never be eliminated.

Census Block (CB)

Census blocks are areas bounded on all sides by visible features, such as streets, roads, streams, and railroad tracks, and by invisible boundaries, such as city, town, township, and county limits, property lines, and short, imaginary extensions of streets and roads. Generally, census blocks are small in area; for example, a block bounded by city streets. However, census blocks in remote areas may be large and irregular and contain many square miles.

Census Block Group (CBG)

Census block groups (CBG) are clusters of census blocks that never cross the boundaries of states, counties, or statistically equivalent entities, except for a CBG delineated by American Indian tribal authorities, and then only when tabulated within the American Indian hierarchy. CBGs never cross the boundaries of census tracts, but may cross the boundary of any other geographic entity required as a census block (CB) boundary. CBGs generally contain between 600 and 3,000 people, with an optimum size of 1,500 people.

Census Tract (CT)

Census tracts are small, relatively permanent statistical subdivisions of a county, and are designed to be homogeneous with respect to population characteristics, economic status, and living conditions. The primary purpose of census tracts is to provide a stable set of geographic units for the presentation of decennial census data. Census tracts generally have between 1,500 and 8,000 people, with an optimum size of 4,000 people. (Counties with fewer people have a single census tract.) The spatial size of census tracts varies widely depending on the density of settlement. Census tract boundaries are delineated with the intention of being maintained over many decades so that statistical comparisons can be made from decennial census to decennial census.


Short for coaxial. A cable consisting of a center copper conductor, surrounded by an insulator then a shield. It carries more data than a ‘twisted-pair’ but far less than a ‘fiber’.


Digital Subscriber Line – a technology used by telephone companies to bring information over copper lines to homes and businesses.

[button link=”” size=”medium” align=”right”]Print version[/button]Digital Divide 

The digital divide refers to the gulf dividing those who have broadband service from those who are underserved, or not served at all.


Environmental Assessment/Initial Study.


Commonly used name of the effort by UC Davis and the California Telehealth Network to ensure broadband access to anchor health institutions in the State. ( )


Commonly used name of the Schools and Libraries Fund of the Universal Service Fund. Funds are administered by USAC under the direction of the FCC (Federal Communications Commission).


Federal Communications Commission — the group that controls the ‘airwaves’ and communications in general.


Also referred to as fiber optic. Fiber is a sheathed glass fiber that has the capacity to carry millions of simultaneous data transactions.

Fixed Wireless

A network that serves fixed locations, such as a home or a business.


Geographic Information System


Global Positioning System – GPS locates are often used to relate the exact position of telecommunication antennas and other related radios.

Ground Truth

A term used in remote sensing; it refers to information collected on location. Ground truth allows image data to be related to real features and materials on the ground. The collection of ground-truth data enables calibration of remote-sensing data, and aids in the interpretation and analysis of what is being sensed. Examples include cartographymeteorology, analysis of aerial photographssatellite imagery and other techniques in which data are gathered at a distance


Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers, an international standards group.


Incumbent Local Exchange Carrier – local telephone companies.


Internet Service Provider


Kilo (thousand) bits per second. A measure of network speed, with a bit being the smallest piece of information (1 or 0).


Kilo Bytes per second – also a measure of speed (there are 8 bits to a byte). ‘KB’ by itself (KiloBytes) is a measure of the size of a data object like a photo or document file.

Last Mile

A term used to refer to the section between a regional Internet pipe and your business or home. Under our effort, this is the part we often have to address locally. The ‘middle mile’ is often already in place by one of the big players (e.g. Comcast), and it is our job to find funding and a local company willing to undertake funding and wiring this ‘last mile’.


Local Access and Transport Area – a geographic region assigned to one or more telephone companies.


Mega (million) bits per second. A measure of network speed, with a bit being the smallest piece of information (1 or 0).


Mega Bytes per second – also a measure of speed (there are 8 bits to a byte). ‘MB’ by itself (MegaBytes) is a measure of the size of a data object like a video or document file.


Mitigated Negative Declaration.

The Map Problem

The map problem is a result of using service advertised by carriers, rather than service carriers actually provide to consumers on the ground, for determining broadband deployment grant funding.


Electromagnetic waves with wavelengths ranging from 1 millimeter to 1 meter, or frequencies between 300 MHz and 300 GHz. Before the advent of fiber optic transmission, most long distance telephone calls were carried via microwave point-to-point links. Antennas are located at hops of approximately 40 miles. Many areas still rely on microwave for telecommunications.

Middle Mile

Also called ‘backhaul’ – a communications link from a local region to the Internet backbone.

Mobile Wireless

Wireless network that allows for mobility, often provided by cellular telephone companies.


National Environmental Policy Act.


National Telecommunications Information Administration.

National Broadband Map

The National Broadband Map visualizes advertised service provided by broadband carriers to the California Public Utilities Commission.  In at least Mendocino and Sonoma counties, the services advertised by carriers do not correspond well with the services carriers actually provide to consumers on the ground.  This map problem freezes unserved and underserved areas of these counties so that the digital divide will never be eliminated.


This is the shorthand for the main feed for Internet access. A ‘fat pipe’ is one with plenty of bandwidth.


Plain Old Telephone Service


Public Switched Telephone Network — The dial-up telephone network.


Repair, Maintenance and Utility.

Twisted Pair

This is used to describe the copper wires normally used for the land-based telephone system. The wires are twisted to help reduce noise.


Universal Services Fund — A fund used to ensure telecommunications services are available to everyone. Funded by a small fee collected on every telephone bill. Since telephone and video are moving to the Internet, there is a move on to use this fund to extend broadband into rural and underserved regions within our country.


Voice Over Internet Protocol – delivery of (digitized) voice over the Internet rather than over traditional (analog) phone lines. Skype is a common program anyone can use to avoid the telephone companies, but ironically, the telephone companies have been using the Internet in the same way for years!


Virtual Private Network – Use of the Internet to provide secure communications for remote offices or individuals to their organization’s network.


Often called landline. Refers to cable or phone-company wired systems that use in-ground or pole-mounted wiring.

This refers to the transport of signals over radio waves rather than by physical wire. Cellular (cell phones & data), satellite, WiFi, WiMax are all examples of wireless-based communications.


Trade name for a popular wireless technology used in home networks, mobile phones, video games and more. WiFi is supported by nearly every modern personal computer operating system and most advanced game consoles. WiFi networks have limited range. A typical WiFi home router using 802.11b or 802.11g (IEEE standards) with a stock antenna might have a range of 32 m (120 ft) indoors and 95 m (300 ft) outdoors. Range also varies with frequency band. WiFi in the 2.4 GHz frequency block has slightly better range than WiFi in the 5 GHz frequency block. Outdoor range with improved (directional) antennas can be several kilometers or more with line-of-sight.


The Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access is a telecommunications technology that provides wireless data in a variety of ways, from point-to-point links to full mobile cellular type access. It is based on the IEEE 802.16 standard, which is also called WirelessMAN. The name WiMAX was created by the WiMAX Forum, which was formed in June 2001 to promote conformance and interoperability of the standard. The forum describes WiMAX as a standards-based technology enabling the delivery of last mile wireless broadband access as an alternative to cable and DSL.


Wireless Internet Service Provider

A Special Thanks to Redwood Coast Connect for the Glossary in their Final Report which started this list!