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The world of high-speed Internet connections can be an
intimidating place for the uninformed. Everything is new and a
little overwhelming. Understanding broadband Internet doesn't
have to be that daunting of a challenge and I promise this
overview won't take a semester to grasp. The first important
thing to understand about broadband Internet is that it is
actually a term that encompasses three different types of high-
speed Internet connections: ADSL, Cable, Satellite. All of these
options are always connected to the Internet, therefore no
dial-up is required. And because no dial-up is required, none of
them will tie up your phone lines.

You've probably already heard that a broadband Internet
connection is faster and better than a dial-up connection, but it
is more expensive. Is it really worth the price? Well, the short
answer is definitely yes. Broadband Internet greatly improves
the quality of your Internet experience. Web pages load
quickly. Downloads are fast and easy. A broadband connection
is always on, meaning that you don't have to wait for the
telephone to dial and connect. When your computer is on, the
Internet is instantly available to you. With a broadband
connection, the Internet becomes a much more valuable tool.

DSL typically have a download speed of 512 kbps and an
upload speed of 128 to 256 kbps. Cable Internet speeds are
comparable. Satellite cable has a similar download speed, but
the typical upload speed is often less than 100 kbps. Much
higher speeds can be found on T1 and T3 lines, but these are
normally available only to large schools and businesses. To
give you some idea of the speed that broadband offers: A file
that would take 10 minutes to download on a typical 56Kbps
dial-up modem would take 49 seconds to download on a
broadband line with a capacity of 128Kbps.

Both DSL and cable provide high-speed broadband Internet
service. DSL works in conjunction with your telephone lines. You
don't need an extra telephone line. With DSL you can talk on
the telephone and access the Internet over the same line at
the same time. DSL calls are channeled through the telephone
company's Central Office (CO). The closer you are to a CO the
better DSL will work for you. If you are too far from a CO your
telephone company will just tell you that the service is not
available.

Cable Internet is similar in that you can watch cable television
and access the Internet at the same time. You don't need to
have cable television to get cable Internet service, but often
companies offer discounts for cable television users. If cable
television is available in your area, cable Internet service will
probably be available through the same company. One caveat
about cable Internet is that it is shared Internet service. If all
of your neighbors are downloading pictures from the Internet at
the same time, your cable connection will slow down. With the
amount of traffic on cable lines right now that is not a problem
in most areas of the country, but it could possibly become a
problem in the future. Generally, cable is easier to set up and
get going.

If you live in an area where you cannot get DSL or cable
Internet, you can still get a broadband connection by satellite.
Satellite Internet access offers slower uploads speeds,
requires a satellite dish to be installed, and the satellite
connection can be adversely affected by bad weather. While
satellite Internet is not perfect, if no other broadband
connections are available, it can be a viable option.

Both DSL and cable provide good, stable, high-speed Internet
connections. Check with several Internet Service Providers to
find out if either or both services are available in your area. Be
sure to check and compare the prices offered by telephone
companies, cable companies and Internet Service Providers for
both cable and DSL before you make your decision. You will
also want to talk to friends and neighbors to see which service
they use and if they are happy with their service.

Sometimes you can get very similar services by two different
companies. For instance, if you are in an area serviced by Time
Warner, the Earthlink Internet service will use the Time Warner
backbone for your service. So the physical service will actually
be identical. However, the Earthlink cable and the Time Warner
Road Runner may offer different prices, different installation
charges, and different incentives, so you will want to check them
both out.

When comparing broadband service, be sure to check the
amount of upload and download bandwidth that each service
provides. Other things that can vary are the number of e-mail
accounts that the service provides and the amount of Web
storage space that comes with your account. The cost of the
equipment and installation can also vary. In most cases the
company provides the modem and the cost of the equipment
rental is included in your monthly fee. If you travel, be sure that
the broadband service provides some sort of dial-up access
just in case you want to check your e-mail while you are away.

The contract that you agree to is also important. Are you
signing up for a certain period of time? Can the service be
terminated without penalty? Remember, when deciding which
company to use for your broadband Internet service, customer
service availability, quality, and responsiveness is also very
important.



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