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A Guide To Broadband Internet Connections

Why Do You Need Broadband?

By this point, most of America already has a Broadband Connection to the Internet.  But for those that have not yet taken the plunge, a world of benefits awaits you!

Surf, download, and have fun faster!

Broadband (a high speed Internet connection) can get you surfing up to 50 times faster* than a typical 56K modem, a high-speed Internet connection will let you download your favorite songs in seconds, watch streaming video in real time, and play games online with hair-trigger response times.

No tied-up phone lines

No need to worry about missing phone calls. Most Broadband connections don't tie up your phone line, so you're free to use your phone anytime.

Always-on Internet connection

With your Internet connection always available, it's easy to use the Internet for whatever you want: look up telephone numbers, recipes, movie theater need to wait for your modem to connect every time.

Find out more, and see which kind of Broadband is right for you:

Cable Internet Access

Cable When you get a television signal from your cable company, all of the video and audio information for a particular channel takes up a "slice" of bandwidth. It is possible to take one of these channels and use it for Internet access, and none of the other channels will be affected. Not all cable systems are capable of this, however.

Cable companies take a slice of bandwidth and use it to exchange data with your computer. They divide this channel into two subchannels for upstream and downstream data. They expect a lot more downstream data, because most people download a lot more than they upload. In some cases, cable companies can only send data through the cable, but not receive messages from you. If this is the case, you need to use a conventional modem to request information, and cable companies send it to you at high speed through the cable system.

What is DOCSIS™?

Cable modems can be DOCSIS certified or proprietary. DOCSIS stands for Data Over Cable Service Interface Specifications. A DOCSIS certified modem is preferable, as it will work with any DOCSIS compliant cable system. DOCSIS modems are generally easier to support because a lot of documentation is available and many cable companies adhere to the standard. A proprietary modem is less desirable, because it will only work with the system for which it was designed.

Are there limitations of cable Internet access?

There are a few things to be aware of when using a cable modem. There may be over 500 homes in your area using the same "channel" for Internet access. If everyone tries to access the Internet at the same time, your download speeds could slow to a crawl. Your cable company can remedy this by dedicating another channel to Internet access.

Another thing to be aware of is the fact that all cable modem users in your area are on the same network cluster, and may be able to browse others people's computers. You should use always use a firewall, but you especially need to run one when you have a cable modem. A firewall is software that monitors network traffic and prevents unauthorized users from accessing your computer. Firewall software can be downloaded and run on a computer itself, or it can be built into a router. 

How do I get Cable Internet Access?

If you already have cable TV, call your cable provider and ask if cable Internet access is available. If your cable provider uses a DOCSIS compliant system, you may be able to purchase your own cable modem and get a reduced monthly rate.


DSL DSL, or Digital Subscriber Line, uses the available bandwidth in your phone line to deliver additional signals. A typical pair of copper wires in your phone is capable of carrying information on many different frequencies.

Your phone line has a wide range of frequencies available, and in order to use DSL, you must ensure that the DSL signals and your telephone conversations do not interfere with one another. Several low channels are used for voice signals, and the remaining channels are used for DSL signals. In some cases, a "buffer" of frequencies is intentionally left unused between the voice and DSL frequencies.

To prevent your voice conversations from interfering with each other, "low-pass filters" or "splitters" must be used on all voice jacks. These devices block out all signals above a certain frequency, so your voice and data transmissions do not use the same frequencies. You do NOT use a filter on the jack that plugs into the DSL modem.

DSL signals can be "asymmetric " (ADSL), meaning the upstream and downstream capabilities are not equal. The companies providing the signal assume that you will have more download traffic than upload traffic, and they partition your bandwidth accordingly. Symmetric (SDSL) offers the same speed capabilities for both upload and download traffic. Unlike cable Internet access, a DSL line is a dedicated resource, not a shared one. That means that if everyone on your street has DSL and everyone uses it at the same time, no one will lose bandwidth.

In the United States, DSL speeds are currently limited to 1.5 Mbps, though technically the technology is capable of 7 Mbps throughput. The next generation, VDSL (very high bit rate DSL), will be capable of delivering up to 52 Mbps, enough to support a new generation of video and audio content delivered on demand. At these speeds, you could easily download a DVD-quality movie and watch it in real time.

Are there limitations to DSL service?

A significant drawback of DSL is that you must live within approximately three miles of the Central Office (CO) that serves your address. The strength of the signal degrades over distance, and unlike regular telephone signals, you can't boost the signal strength along the way. Your distance from the CO also affects your connection speed: the closer you live to the CO, the faster your connection. DSL providers usually post the best possible speeds (for example, 1.5 Mbps download/1 Mbps upload). Unless you live very close to the CO, you will not get these speeds. You must have a "clean copper pair" available between your house and the CO. A clean copper pair is a set of wires that is used exclusively for the purpose of transmitting your signal and your signal only. When used to aggregate telephone signals together, a copper pair is no longer considered "clean."

How do I get DSL?

The simple answer is:  contact your local phone company!  While there may be other DSL providers in your local market, you POTS carrier will be your first choice in most cases.

Fiber Optic

Verizon's FiOS Internet

Verizon FiOS Internet Service uses state-of-the-art fiber optic technology to deliver broadband Internet access to your home at much greater speeds than DSL.

The increased capacity and faster speeds of the fiber optic lines not only deliver broadband Internet access at superior speeds, but have also enabled crystal-clear phone calls with FiOS phone and FiOS TV with High Definition programming and digital sound.

How does Fiber Optic Technology work?

When you access the Internet, a fiber optic cable carries the laser-generated pulses of light to transmit the data signal to your home. Once the signal has arrived, an Optical Network Terminal (ONT) converts it to an electrical signal that is understood by your computer.

Your ONT takes all converted incoming information and delivers it to your router via an Ethernet cable. After the signal has passed through your firewall, the Ethernet cable carries the signal to the Network Interface Card plugged into your computer.

When you send an email or other data over the Internet, the electrical signal from your computer is converted back to light signals by the ONT and transmitted to the recipient over the fiber optic cable. This allows for the remarkably fast transfer of information.

What is Fiber Optics?

Fiber optics are strands of optically pure glass that carry digital information as pulses of light. Each glass strand has a protective coating and is surrounded by an optical material that reflects the light back into the glass core. Hundreds of thousands of these coated glass strands are bundled together to make the Fiber to the Premises (FTTP) (also known as Fiber to the Home, or FTTH) optical cable that is connected to your home.

FiOS service incorporates fiber optics, while DSL and Dial-Up use copper telephone wiring.

Fiber Optic Strand

Advantages of fiber optics include:

  • Faster connection speeds
  • More bandwidth for phone lines, data transfer, videos, and television
  • Stronger signal over longer distances

What are the benefits of fiber compared to the benefits of typical DSL?  The new services being offered on the next generation state-of-the-art fiber network will provide connection speeds greater than those available today with DSL, and in many cases greater than those speeds currently offered by other types of Internet access.

  • 5 Mbps: Multiple family members can be online at the same time doing their own thing—playing games, sharing photos, listening to music, or watching videos—using their home network to share their broadband connection.  (Cable Broadband is typically in the 3MB to 12MB range)
  • 15 Mbps: Everything you can do with the 5 Mbps service, plus you can download and view high quality full-length movie or play games in real time.
  • 30 Mbps: Everything you can do with the 5 Mbps and 15 Mbps services, plus streaming video capabilities.

The speeds listed are connection speeds between the customer's home or office and the central office serving that location. Actual throughput speed will vary based on factors such as the condition of wiring inside the customer's location; computer configuration; network or Internet congestion; and the server speed of Web sites accessed, among other factors. Speed and uninterrupted use of the service are not guaranteed - of course this is true of all connection types.

Satellite Internet Access

If neither cable nor DSL is available in your area, there's still hope that you can get high-speed Internet access. Satellite connectivity allows you to receive and transmit data through a satellite dish, much like a satellite TV receiver. Satellite systems can be two-way or one-way. Two-way systems use the satellite equipment to request and receive data at high speeds, and one-way access only allows you to download information at high-speed. If this is the case, you would need to have a dial-up connection as well. When you open a Web page, your request is transmitted through the dial-up connection, and response is delivered via your satellite receiver. This is similar to the way that one-way cable Internet connections work.

Satellite access operates much like the other forms of broadband. A very wide spectrum of bandwidth is allocated to a satellite broadcaster, and this spectrum is divided into bands of data. Normally, television channels are broadcast in these bands, but they can also be used for data signals.

Are there any drawbacks to satellite connectivity?

Though satellite access can provide speeds comparable to cable or DSL, there are some limitations. Gamers may experience latency when playing via a satellite modem. The data being transmitted needs to travel to the satellite and back, and this causes slight delays. These delays would not be noticeable when accessing web pages, but network games need to send and receive many messages back and forth every second. When these messages are delayed slightly, the player may notice "hiccups" in his/her play. Also, heavy rain can interfere with the signal. Satellite access is more expensive than residential cable or DSL access, but the price has been steadily declining.

How do I get Satellite Internet access?

The best way is to do a little homework on the Internet. Using your favorite search engine, look up "Satellite Internet Access." You will have to compare the various equipment and service fees before selecting a service provider.


In short, the kind of broadband connection you get depends on: where you are, how much you want to spend on hardware, and the bandwidth you want.

Cable Broadband offers the most bang for the buck, with higher than DSL speeds, for the same or less money in most markets.  However, if you are running a business on your Internet connection, you may want to pay an extra $25-35 a month for a redundant different mode connection as a backup - such as using Cable for your main connection, and DSL as a backup.  This way, if one goes down, the other will probably remain connected (unless your gardener digs up the wires coming into your house!).

Tags: DSL, Cable TV, FiOS, Direct PC