Home Back

Broadband Choices

Before discussing the various choices for broadband service, it's important to first define the term, broadband. Broadband is the term used for any of the technologies available today to bring high speed internet access into your home or small business. You've heard the terms - cable, DSL, fixed wireless and satellite which currently are the most popular broadband choices. But how do you know which broadband technology is right for you?

Making a choice of broadband service might simply come down to a matter of availability. Not all technologies are available in all areas. If you do have a choice, you'll want to consider the pros and cons of each choice. Cost, installation time, speed, and reliability are some of the factors you should consider before making a choice of broadband service. This article will provide a brief introduction to each of the broadband technologies listed above and will provide some basic pros and cons of each type.

By far the most common broadband technology available today is cable. If you know someone who has Roadrunner or Excite@Home, they've chosen cable as their broadband technology. More than forty-six percent of homes use cable. Cable is very easy to install and installation can happen in days, not weeks. The local cable guy comes to your home, installs a coaxial cable that gets hooked up a special modem which is attached to a computer, and installs filters on the cable line so that the television and the data streams do not interfere with each other. And that's it.

Cable has the potential to be very fast, however, end uses report that it is slow. What really happens is that it slows during times of high use. The problem really stems from the vast number of people accessing the cable at the same time. They clog the bandwidth which is what really causes the slowness. If you don't like to share, then cable may not be the right choice. One way around the speed issue is to access cable at off-peak times of the day. Another good reason to choose cable is that it is affordable. Prices for cable typically range between $35 and $55 per month.

One concern with cable is security. Anytime data is shared, as it is with cable, there is a greater risk of security issues. Installing a firewall or other security measure is one way to help protect your data. Finally, radio frequencies and sometimes the weather can interfere with cable.

DSL is another broadband technology option. It is not as widely available as cable, and in fact DSL is used by only about a third of homes in the US. But if DSL is available in your area, you may wish to consider it. It's difficult to nail down an exact cost of DSL, as providers, pricing and promotions seem to change as frequently as the weather. You will have to pay for the modem and for the installation in addition to monthly charges.

Because you do not share DSL with others, DSL will give you reliable speed. Small businesses can benefit from this fact alone. Also, you do not need a separate phone line and DSL line; they can share the same line, and this can save you money. Weather and radio frequencies do not affect DSL which is another nice feature.

Security is an issue with DSL as it is with the other broadband choices. Because DSL is always on and because the ISP address remains constant, hackers can get at your data more easily. But again, a firewall can address this issue. Another limitation with DSL is physical. DSL needs to be in close proximity to a telephone company's central switching center, so if your home or business is more than three miles away, you likely won't be able to get DSL. Finally, DSL installation horror stories abound. Check around and if you're considering DSL, get some references from users to see how they are faring.

Fixed wireless is yet another broadband choice and includes microwave, cellular and radio. Basically fixed wireless uses transmission towers. These towers are connected to the Internet, which enables the towers to send and receive data back and forth from your PC. Distance is not an issue as it is with DSL; however fixed wireless technology is currently set up in only a few areas. If the technology is in your area, you can be up to 35 miles away from a tower. You need to install a small antenna onto your roof and then connect the antenna to your computer.

Its monthly costs are comparable to cable and DSL, but you will need to pay additional for the equipment (modem and antenna). Fixed wireless is fast and incredibly responsive. However, you do need to share the bandwidth with others, making it slower at times. Its availability is not widespread yet, but this likely will change. Bad weather and tall objects can disrupt fixed wireless service too.

Finally, satellite is one more broadband technology worth investigating. Because a satellite dish affixed to your home is the primary instrument used for this technology, it is available everywhere. The only requirement to make satellite work properly is that the dish has to have clear access to the southern sky. Rural and remote areas and any other area that does not have access to cable, DSL or fixed wireless can all have satellite. So, no one has to feel left out. However, you will pay more for satellite. It will cost several hundred dollars for the satellite dish, another couple hundred dollars for installation and this is in addition to an average monthly charge of sixty dollars! You'll need a few additions to your computer hardware as well. You've really got to want broadband technology to pay for all this.

The good part about satellite is that it is available everywhere. The bad parts are that it has to be precisely positioned to work properly. If a tall tree blocks the dish's path to the southern sky, it will need to be cut down. Bad weather can cause problems with the connection. With satellite, you're again sharing bandwidth so it will slow to a crawl during times of high usage. It's slow to respond, and what you do is always being monitored!

So there you have it - a brief discussion of today's most common choices in broadband technology. If you're ready to take advantage of faster connection, upload and download speeds, get on the broadband bandwagon today!