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Internet Connectivity Options

Q: Jim from Euclid asks: My Internet connection is so slow. Can't I connect any faster?

A. There are several ways to connect to the Internet. Each has its own plusses and minuses. Let's look at the options.

Dial Up - Phone Line

You are probably using a phone line connected to a phone jack on a device called a modem inside your computer to connect to the Internet. Your PC has to dial-up and connect to an Internet Service Provider (like AOL, MSN or one of the smaller ISPs). So this type of connection is called a Dial Up Connection. The laws of physics and current phone line technology limit the speed of such connections to a maximum of 56kbps or 56,000 bits per second.

That sounds fast but, as you have experienced, it can seem very slow when trying to view web pages with lots of pictures or sounds or other items. Also, even though the maximum possible connect speed is 56k, it is very unlikely that you will ever actually connect at that speed. Depending on a variety of factors (wind, age of connections, distance from hubs, squirrels on the line, etc.) you may get real speeds of 24k to 50K or less.

Phone lines were designed for voice transmission, not high-speed data so they are not the optimal way to connect. But they are the least expensive option and you already have a phone line in your home so you don't need to install anything else.

ISDN

ISDN stands for Integrated Services Digital Network and is another product of the phone company. ISDN can provide up to 128kbps speeds for somewhere around $100 per month. It is digital rather than analog like the regular phone line. But problems installing and maintaining ISDN lines has made this a less than optimal solution. Plus, you barely get twice the speed for more than twice the cost.

Cable

Cable modems use the same cable that your provider (probably Adelphia) uses for your cable TV. Cable can provide very fast connections that are always on - you don't have to dial up to connect. This always-on status is convenient and you will probably use the Internet more but you have to take extra precautions to protect yourself from outside hackers when your connection is always on.

Cable companies and phone companies are battling it out for this huge potential market. Cable is only available in certain areas of the city and state right now. Canton was one of the first to get cable access with their Roadrunner service.

One of the stated problems with cable is that the more people who use the service, the slower it is. So in peak usage times, a cable connection can bog down.

DSL

Digital Subscriber Line is another always on connection providing very fast speeds. But unlike cable, it uses phone lines, though not your regular voice line. DSL is also dependent on your geography. You have to be within a certain distance of phone company equipment to be able to get DSL.

DSL comes in various flavors (SDSL, ADSL, etc.) depending on what speeds you need and want to pay for. You should be aware that several DSL companies have gone under in the last year leaving the industry in a state of disarray. You may experience significant delays (up to 6 months) in actually getting your DSL connection installed after ordering it from a provider.

T1, T3, etc.

There are other options that are geared toward businesses. They provide very fast connections but can cost a minimum of $500 per month. If you use such a connection at work and then connect at dialup speeds at home it will seem as slow as molasses.

Bottom Line

First, check with your Internet Service Provider and the phone company if you aren't able to get a connection speed of at least 40k with a 56k modem.

If your home is located in an area that can get cable or DSL access, you may want to spend the extra money and go for it. Be sure to talk to your provider about a firewall to protect your PC from hackers. Expect some frustrations and delays and enjoy your faster surfing.

Answered by Tech Expert Dan Hanson

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