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The Need for Speed


Stan Gelber


Because of Healthlinks I spend a great deal of time on the Internet and needless to say, the speed of my connection from a productivity standpoint is very important to me. I previously used an ISDN line for about two years and was generally pleased with it however now I use a DSL line and the difference in speed and reliability are impressive. I selected a DSL line over a cable modem because of several technical differences however many of you will not have a choice and must use whatever is available be it a regular telephone line, a cable modem or a DSL line. 

I realized that many of you do not have the foggiest idea of what these are or what capabilities they can provide, so I thought I would spend some time discussing them with you.

Cable modems and DSL are on the cutting edge of connection methodologies and designed to provide you with high-speed Internet access over a dedicated circuit (the line is always connected to your ISP). Let’s examine each one.

Cable Modems

Many television cable companies such as ComCast, MediaOne and Cox Broadcasting have adapted the television cable system coming into your home to provide high-speed connections to the Internet. They appear to be reasonably priced ($29.00 to $59.00) per month, and offer speeds up to 10 Mbits per second. Sounds great however there is a downside to this capability.

1. Congestion

While speeds are very high, you will share the cable with other subscribers which can cause congestion resulting in an overall slowdown for everyone. In other words, the more people using the cable to access the Internet, the slower your connection.

2. Equipment

You will need to install a network board in your computer. While this sounds complicated, it really is quite simple under most conditions and a lot of the pain is eliminated because the cable provider will often install the board for you (for an additional cost of course) . Where it becomes complicated is if you already have a network board installed for a home network (used to connect multiple computers together). Problems include a limit on the number of network boards that can be installed on some computer systems, the lack of a free connector slot in your PC and an operating system that does not support networking. Equipment costs are around $200.00 however your provider may waive the charges if you sign a one year contract. The easiest way to connect to your ISP if you already have a network board is to buy a firewall router (costs are around $100.00 US). This not only allow you to share your connection with other computers but offers a high degree of protection from hackers and the curious who will absolutely try and break into your computer.

3. Your Cable Company Becomes your ISP.

Because your cable company is providing the connection to the Internet, it also becomes your ISP. This means you must change your email address and give up your existing ISP account. It also means you do not have the ability to connect to the Internet while traveling using your home account.

DSL Connections

As an alternative to the above, many telephone companies are either providing or rolling out digital subscriber line (DSL) services. The nice thing about DSL is that it uses (and shares) the telephone line already installed in your home or office. DSL speeds vary depending upon who is providing the service and what you want to pay. On the low end, speed starts at 384 Kbytes and tops out at 1.5 Mbytes or higher. Unfortunately different telephone companies have implemented different levels of service so you will have to speak to your provider to see what’s available.

1. Congestion

One of the advantages of DSL is that you have a dedicated connection that is not shared so you will not experience congestion (you do not compete with other subscribers for use of the connection).

2. Equipment

Also similar to the cable modem, you will need either a network board installed in your computer or a hub if you have a network and wish to share the DSL line. My DSL line connects to a wireless LinkSys four port router which provides four Ethernet connections and a large number of wireless connections. I selected the wireless model because I an often in other parts of the building that does not have a connection it this allows me to use my laptop with a wireless card. The cost of the router is around $100.00 US and the wireless card $75.00.


The cost for a DSL line varies depending on who is providing the service however it will probably cost more than a cable modem. Prices range from around $39.00 a month to well over $100.00 per month. Equipment costs are also around $200.00 however your provider may waive the charges if you sign a one-year contract.

Both cable modem and DSL connections are considered to be "always on" so email and Internet access is very fast and there are no hourly charges.

Be aware that some restrictions do exist.

The service must be available in your local area

Distance limitations exist (3 miles for DSL) from the transmitter points.

Finally even though my router does include a hardware firewall, I highly suggest you also purchase a software firewall as the hardware will not stop all attacks. LinkSys suggests a product called ZoneAlarm however I use a product from ISS called BlackICE. You can locate both companies by typing in the names in a Google search,

If you have any questions about the above, I would be happy to assist you, until next time, good surfing and good health...

Stan Gelber

CEO Healthlinks



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