Ditching dial-up

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Ditching dial-up
The lowdown on high-speed Internet access

By Dave Hatter

Are you tired of long waits and endless busy signals while trying to connect to the Internet? How about the seemingly endless wait to download large files or check email? Maybe it’s time to join the nearly 16 million broadband customers already using high-speed Internet access. It will revolutionize the way you experience the Internet.

The major benefit of broadband Internet access is its raw speed compared with “dialup” Internet access. Traditional dial-up requires a modem to dial a phone number to connect to your Internet Service Provider (ISP). Dial-up access taps out around 56.6 kilobits per second (Kbps). Broadband access provides much higher access speeds ranging from 10 to 30 times faster. This massive increase in performance will make every aspect of using the Web more enjoyable. Webpages load quickly; e-mail is accessible in a snap; and large files download in the blink of an eye. Plus, the more advanced Internet technologies, such as streaming audio and video, become easier to use.

I’ll give you an example. Say you were to visit windowsupdate.microsoft.com to get the latest Windows security patches and files. After the scan, you learn that you need to download the latest Internet Explorer patch, which is 21 megabytes (MB). Using a 56.6Kbps dial-up connection, downloading these patches would take approximately 50 minutes! The same download using a good broadband Internet connection, which conservatively averages around 1.5 megabits per second (Mbps), would take roughly 2 minutes. That’s not a typo. This same download would take only 2 minutes.

Another benefit of broadband access is that it’s always on, which means you maintain a constant connection to the Internet. There is no need to “dial-in,” which eliminates that irritating wait time while your PC attempts to establish a connection to your ISP.

So what does broadband cost? It averages about two to three times more than dial-up, and you have two basic choices: cable or digital subscriber line (DSL). Here’s a breakdown:

DSL— DSL uses existing copper telephone lines to connect your PC to the Internet at high speeds, which typically range from 768Kbps to 1.544Mbps for downloads and 128Kbps to 384Kbps for uploads. To use DSL, you’ll need a phone line (your existing phone line is sufficient, you don’t necessarily need a second line) a DSL modem, an Ethernet (network) card, and a DSL provider. DSL generally runs between $50 and $60 permonth for home users.

However, DSL is not without its faults. Typical problems include a decrease in performance as you move farther away from the phone company’s central office, lack of availability in rural areas, and problems with older phone lines.

Cable— Cable-based broadband access is provided through your cable company’s coaxial cable. Cable speeds are slightly higher on average than DSL, with upload speeds exceeding 2Mbps on some systems. Monthly subscription costs tend to be slightly lower than DSL, ranging between $40 and $50 dollars per month. Like DSL, you’ll need some special equipment, namely a cable modem and an Ethernet (network) card. Additionally, you’ll need a cable provider that provides Internet access in your area.

Cable also has its drawbacks. The primary flaw is that bandwidth is shared, so as more users come on the system, performance may suffer. And like DSL, cable may not be available in rural areas.

While cable and DSL are widely available in most metropolitan regions, you need to check availability in your particular area, as this may become the deciding factor in which path you choose. Otherwise, evaluate the service offerings of the local cable and DSL providers and select the one that best fits your needs. Either way, you really can’t go wrong. Cable and DSL provide a tremendous improvement over dial-up Internet access.

Dave Hatter is president of Libertas Technologies LLC, a clientfocused technology solutions provider specializing in webbased development and consulting. He has nearly 11 years of programming experience, is the author/co-author of 11 technology books for Macmillan Computer Publishing and holds a B.S in Information Systems from Northern Kentucky University. Mr. Hatter can be reached at 888.860.3110; e-mail dhatter @libertastechnologies.com;visit www.libertastechnologies.com

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