All About Broadband
So you’re interested in a faster internet connection. What choices do you have?
Depending on where you live, you may have been offered DSL (Digital Subscriber Line) from the phone company, cable access from your cable provider, or even satellite DSL from a handful of other providers. How do they stack up?
First off, they’re all significantly faster than your modem. They’re all “always on”. Any of these will change the way you use the internet. Now for the specifics.
— dsl —
DSL is offered through the phone line. It comes in different speeds, but most residences and small businesses are happy with the asynchronous (ADSL) type. That just means your download speed is much higher than your upload speed. Most of the time you are getting data and not sending it (reading web pages, downloading e-mail, etc.), so this is a good solution. Typical speeds are 768kbps (kilobits per second) download, and 128kbps upload. DSL is a “star” topology, which means that you have a line directly from you to the provider, with no one else on that line. If both you and your neighbor have DSL, each of you has a separate line from your respective houses to the telephone company’s central office, and your speed will always remain the same. It can be easily used with Windows machines, Macintosh, Linux, or anything that can handle an ethernet connection. Price in our area (the tri-state area) starts at $40 per month.
— cable —
Cable is offered through your cable TV provider, and comes in on the same coaxial line. It is hard to say what speed cable is, but it ranges from blazingly fast to downright painfully slow. The reason for this is that unlike DSL’s star topology, cable is offered in a daisy-chain, or “bus” topology. This means your neighbors are very likely on the same physical cable line as you are. Let’s say you get cable, and so do 9 of your neighbors who happen to have kids. Let’s also say that you work at home. In the middle of the day, chances are your connection will be fast — on the order of 2.5 to 5Mbps (megabits per second) — about 3 to 6 times faster than the average DSL connection. Once those kids start to come home from school, however, they will all be going online, and your speed will drop. You and your neighbors are all sharing the same internet connection, and are at the mercy of peak usage time. It can be easily used with Windows machines, Macintosh, Linux, or anything that can handle an ethernet connection. Price in our area starts at $40 per month.
— satellite dsl —
For those of you in areas too far from the telephone company’s central office (you have to be under 18,000 feet, about 3.4 miles) for DSL, or are not offered cable internet access, you can fall back on satellite DSL. The satellite company installs a small 24″-36″ dish on or near your house, and places two small boxes near your computer. These boxes, called CSU/DSU then connect to your computer and the satellite. It provides you with a two-way, always on connection, much like DSL or cable. Download speeds can reach about 400kbps, just over half of a regular telephone DSL connection. Upload speeds are generally about 2 to 3 times as fast as a modem. Unfortunately, satellite DSL suffers the same “sharing” problem as does cable — there are a limited number of satellites, and the residential service usually puts about 2,000 houses per single satellite. Thus, if you compare speeds at peak vs. offpeak times, you’ll see a marked difference. It uses a USB connection, so it can only be easily used with Windows machines. To use it with a Macintosh, Linux, or anything else would require you to buy a cheap Windows system, set up a small network, and have it act as a gateway system. Price ranges from $60 per month on up, you have to buy the equipment for $600, and have it installed, which can range from $100 to $400.
— what to get —
Our recommendation, in order of preference, is to get DSL or cable if they are available to you. Satellite DSL should be the last on your list, since it’s so expensive and the response times are slow. For specific opinions on providers, equipment, etc., give us a call.
(ping time, compared to modem, higher is slower)
|Reliability||Good||Good||Depends on environmental conditions|