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Internet Access Revisited

-Stan Gelber

Technology is changing so rapidly that another article on connecting to the Internet is worthwhile. The basic options now available include: dialup connections, ISDN, cable modems and ADSL.

a. Dialup Telephone Connections

Using a standard telephone line is by far the most common means of connecting to the Internet. Speeds can range from glacial up to a supposed maximum of 53,000 bits per second; however, in reality about the best you can expect is in the 26,400 to 33,300 bps range. This is due to the quality of telephone lines coming into our homes or offices (only 40% of the lines in North America will support rates higher than 33,300 bps). Keep in mind that regardless of your modem's capabilities, the condition of the telephone line dictates maximum achievable connection speed.

b. ISDN Lines

If you're willing to pay a bit more, ISDN (Integrated Services Digital Network) is a good alternative. ISDN gives you access to the Internet at speeds up to 128,000 bps. It works over standard telephone wires and requires an ISDN interface rather than a modem. The ISDN Interface is somewhat more expensive than a modem ($150.00 to $300.00 US) and is available in both internal and external models. Contrary to what has been written in the past, the interface has become easier to setup and use (although I use a Motorola BitSurfer, there are several other equally good alternatives). ISDN is available in most areas of North America, Europe, and Japan. When you are not using ISDN for Internet access, two standard telephone lines are available for voice communications. Prices vary around the world ranging from around $29.00 US a month to over $100.00 per month. You will also need to establish an account with an Internet Service Provider (ISP) which will usually be more expensive than a standard account. I use an ISDN connection in my office and feel it is worth the costs because of its benefits.

c. Cable Modems

Many television cable companies are now providing Internet access through their cable television systems. If this is available in your area, this is the way to go! You get access speeds well into the millions of bits per second, at a very reasonable cost per month. You do need to be aware that your cable provider will become your ISP and that a rather expensive installation charge is assessed because you will need a new cable box and an interface installed in your computer. This service is not yet widely available because most cable systems need to be upgraded to provide this capability; however, I foresee that a major push will take place this year by cable providers to make this service available. Costs for installation should be in the $200 to $300 range and monthly charges will be in the $30 to $50 range. Contact your cable provider for information regarding availability and pricing.

d. New Telephone Services (ADSL)

The telephone companies are also going to provide high-speed services for Internet access. They are starting with ADSL (asynchronous digital subscriber line) service. Similar to ISDN, ADSL will use standard telephone lines for speeds up to several million bits per second. You will need an ADSL interface installed in your computer to use this service. Very few telephone companies are offering ADSL at what I consider a reasonable price. The telcos with the most acceptable pricing include Pacific Bell, US West, and Southwestern Bell. US West is charging around $40.00 per month for the line and Internet access. Check with your telephone provider and Internet Service Provider for availability and pricing.

e. Other options

Other options are also available for accessing the Internet ranging from wireless/satellite connections to high speed dedicated lines connected to your home or office. But these typically carry a price tag of from several hundred to thousands of dollars every month, making them impractical options for most individuals or small businesses.

Regardless of where you live or how you connect to the Internet, speed is--or will become--a critical issue; so it makes sense to arrange for the fastest connection available that you can afford.

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