Blazing speed for
work or play...
Broadband is, to put it
simply, the Internet as it ought to be.
The usual figure
that's bandied about is "up to 50 times faster" than 28K
dial-up. Actual speeds vary with the service and the
circumstances, ranging from around 256Kb to well over 1000 Kb
(megabit) transfer rates. That's kind of hard to
visualize, so here's something a little more concrete:
Using a dial-up 56K
modem, this page with all its ad's and content probably takes
close to thirty seconds to download completely. Most
people stuck with 28K or slower hookups probably get tired of
waiting and go elsewhere. With broadband, you get this
page within a couple of seconds- maybe five on a bad day, one or
two on a good one.
Online video becomes
a viable form of entertainment. Online news becomes a
practical source of information. We no longer subscribe to
any print media- from newspapers to magazines to research
libraries, everything's online and readily accessible.
From trivial to
extraordinary, the Internet becomes a truly useful tool for
digging into anywhere your interests lie.
Aside from speed...
Broadband has a few advantages aside from the raw speed factor.
In some cases, these can help to offset the additional expense.
phone line required
Unlike traditional dial-up modems, broadband Internet
connections transmit and receive data simultaneously with normal
voice communication traffic on the lines.
This means that you
no longer have to choose whether you want to use the telephone
or Internet- one does not interfere with the other. The
common solution of having two phone lines installed- one for
talking and one for Internet- is no longer needed.
simultaneous access over one account
Some service providers may not like it, but once your service is
installed it's relatively easy to network multiple computers for
simultaneous and independent usage of the Internet through a
single broadband connection. Although it's possible to
accomplish this with dial-up services, it's both easier and more
reliable with broadband.
If you already have
a network installed, be aware that some service providers want
to charge a separate, additional, monthly fee for each network
node. We'll just point out that network cables and hubs
may easily be disconnected and tucked away before the installer
Buy or rent
Broadband does require special hardware- a network card
installed in your computer and a specific type of modem for the
service you will have: cable or DSL. Typically, you can
rent the modem from your service provider and thus avoid the
initial outlay, but with rental fees around $10 monthly and
modems relatively cheap, it makes more sense to buy.
We recommend renting
initially, so you can evaluate the service. Once you
decide to keep it, buy and install your own modem, turn your
provider's back in to them, and pocket the monthly savings.
The required network
card is another story. Buy and install your own 10/100
fast Ethernet network card before scheduling service
installation. Almost any brand will do. We've used
cards from Netgear, D-Link, Sohoware, and others, but have been
particularly and uniformly pleased with networking products from
Any of these will
work as well as and cost much less than the one your provider is
likely to try to sell you.
Yes, but is it justified?
Whether the high speed access
that broadband provides is worth the extra cost is something no
one else can tell you. It all depends on what you do, and
what you want to do.
If you're reading
this, the odds are very good that you're a candidate for
broadband service. Just finding this page among the
billions out there makes you more than a casual user, and if
you're using dialup much of the time you spend online is spent
twiddling your thumbs waiting for a page to transfer.
As a business user,
the discussion is over. Time is money and if you can't
make an extra five dollars a week with the time you'll save the
Internet probably doesn't make the 'A list' of concerns.
For personal or
family use, the answer's not so clear. We'd suggest
looking at your total monthly usage by all the people involved,
how much leisure time you have, and how you want to use it.
What gets accomplished through your Internet connection, and
would it be worthwhile to accomplish more in the same amount of
time, or to accomplish the same thing in less time?
Factor in the cost
of accommodating a dialup, whether in the form of extra phone
lines, or extra services like voice mail that would not be
required if Internet access did not tie up your phone line.
In many cases, the
added cost of broadband is more than offset by savings in
telephone charges. One word of caution though- don't count
on free long distance voice calls made through the Internet.
When this works, it works very well and some people have been
able to reduce long distance charges down to zero. Others,
though, have no success with it at all. If it works for
you, consider it a bonus. Just be aware that it may or may
Cable or DSL?
There are basically two
choices for affordable high speed Internet: cable, provided by
the same company over the same wiring that delivers cable
television, and DSL, which is a leased service delivered over
standard telephone wires. Either connects to your computer
through a specialized modem and a standard 10 megabit (or the
currently more common 10/100 megabit) Ethernet network card.
The network card is
typically a PCI card installed in your computer; the modem is
typically an external unit connected to the incoming service on
one side and to the network card on the other using standard
Category 5 network cable tipped with ends that look like giant
modular telephone jacks.
that's where the simplicity ends. Your choice is likely to
be dictated by availability. As you might imagine,
broadband service, whether cable or DSL, requires up to date
wiring and equipment from the service carrier.
If you have cable television, this is likely to be your first
choice for broadband Internet. Cable subscribers normally
receive a discount making it slightly less expensive than DSL
Some cable companies
still offer one-way broadband in some locations, and if this is
what's available to you we strongly suggest you just say no.
One way service delivers pages quickly, but requires a
simultaneous telephone connection to the ISP (Internet Service
Provider) to transmit your commands. Anytime you're
online, the phone line is tied up just as it would be with a
We tried this when
it first came out and found it pretty much useless. Too
expensive, too unreliable, too little for our money. We
got hooked up again when they upgraded our local service to two
way and have stayed connected ever since.
With two way, all
traffic both inbound and outbound is routed through your cable
line, the same one that carries your cable TV service.
Modern cable wiring carries a lot of information, and adding
Internet has no effect on the television service. For
this, no telephone is required at all.
A cable hookup is
always connected. You're always online. It's
extremely convenient, as though the Internet were actually a
part of your computer. And it's fast. Actual speeds
will vary depending on your cable company, but compared to
dialup even the slowest is blindingly quick.
It's not quite
utopia, however. If your neighborhood has a lot of cable
Internet connections, you could find the service slowing
noticeably during periods of high use. This is why we
suggest you put off buying your own cable modem until you've
lived with the service for a while.
Cable service is
available only from your local cable company, and you have no
choice of ISP's. In most cases, a cable company
representative must do the installation, and your cable company
may have different rates for business and residential customers.
If your local phone wiring is adequate, DSL may be a better
choice. There are some fairly stringent requirements with
regard to your location with respect to phone switching stations
and the type of wiring installed. Unlike cable, DSL is
available from ISP's other than your local company. Just
as you can choose among Earthlink, AOL, MSN, or any number of
other dialup services, there is a variety of companies that can
deliver DSL over your phone lines (if those lines are adequate).
It's important to
understand that although DSL uses your existing phone line, it
does not "tie it up" while you're online. You can surf the
web while talking to Aunt Hattie or sending a fax, and receive
phone calls while online without disrupting your connection.
This is made
possible by cooperation between your DSL modem and your phone
company's equipment, and is also why DSL is not available in all
Because the DSL
environment is more competitive than cable, it pays to do some
shopping to determine what's available. Like cable, some
ISP's have different rates for business customers, and different
rules for usage. Most online providers have an install it
yourself option, which is not as difficult as it may seem, and
some will also have a local contractor make the installation for
Either way, the
process takes some time (up to several weeks) to accomplish
between ordering the service and getting connected to it.
Can I get
broadband at my location?
Check with your local cable company to find out whether two way
broadband service is available in your location.
Alternatively, you can conduct a free test to determine whether
DSL is an option for you at the link below: