Internet Connections Explained

internet/httpaddressbar120.jpg Are you looking for a better Internet connection? Or perhaps you've heard about high-speed Internet connections, such as cable, ISDN, and DSL but need a little clarification as to what each of these different types of connections are and what they do. Read on, and I'll try to shed a little light on the subject for you.

Dial-Up Connections 
The most basic type of Internet connection is called a dial-up connection. This connection is made through a modem (the communication mechanism in computers) that uses a telephone line to connect to the Internet. The modem must dial the telephone every time it wants to connect to the Internet, hence the name dial-up connection. 

Modem - Dial-Up Connection 
The fastest modem that you can use for this type of Internet connection is called a 56K modem. When a regular analog telephone line is used for an Internet connection, the modem must convert the analog signals that it receives from the telephone line into digital signals that the computer can comprehend. To send information from your computer, the modem must take the computer's digital signals and convert them into analog signals to be sent over the telephone line. All of these conversions take time; compared to other Internet connections, this is a relatively slow connection. One other problem with this type connection is that calling the Internet will tie up your telephone line often forcing frequent users to bear the cost of installing and paying the monthly fees for a second telephone line. 

ISDN - Dial-Up Connection 
The second type of dial-up connection is through an ISDN (Integrated Services Digital Network). This connection is a high-speed dial-up and requires a special type of dedicated  digital telephone line. This type of connection improves speed because the signals received are already in a digital format, but it is costly. An ISDN line should be considered only if the broadband connections that we will cover next are not available. 

For a while dial-up connections were the only way to access the Internet. Now, however, broadband connections are available in many parts of the country as telephone and cable companies install new lines to accommodate Internet connections. 

Broadband Connections   
Broadband is a high-speed Internet connection that makes surfing the Web more enjoyable. It also easily accommodates the video, audio, or complex graphics that are becoming commonplace on the Internet. Broadband is a type of data transmission in which a single medium or wire can carry several channels or communication paths at once. So broadband cable connections are able to transmit both television signals and Internet data at the same time. Broadband telephone connections like DSL are able to transmit both voice and data over the same line at the same time. 

Broadband connections are always on. That means if your computer is on, you will be connected to the Internet with no dial-up involved. For most average users, a broadband connection will mean accessing the Internet by either a cable modem provided by their local cable company or a DSL modem and DSL telephone line provided by their local telephone service provider. 

Cable – Broadband Connection 
A cable modem is a fast connection that you purchase from your cable television company. Most cable companies provide you with the modem and a network card that must be installed in your computer. Their service appears as a reoccurring charge on your monthly cable television bill. With cable Internet access, your cable company becomes your Internet Service Provider. You do not have to have cable television to use their cable for Internet service. However, most cable companies give price breaks on Internet access to their cable television customers. 

There are only two drawbacks to cable. First, it is a shared connection, meaning you share the "pipeline" with your neighbors. That doesn't mean that your neighbors will know what you are doing on the Internet. But it does mean that if all of your neighbors were on the Internet downloading large files at the same time, your Internet connection would not be as speedy as usual. In actuality, this won't have any noticeable impact on a neighborhood until a lot more folks start using cable modems. The second drawback to cable is also minor. Because cable modem connections are always on, they, like DSL connections, make you more vulnerable to hacking and security breaches. For this reason, many cable companies are now providing their customers firewall software to help protect their security.  

DSL – Broadband Connection 
DSL stands for digital subscriber line. This is a special telephone line that also provides high speed Internet access. In most cases you can use one DSL line for both Internet and voice communications, saving on the cost of a second line. DSL connections are speedy. In some cases they are as fast as cable connections. The only caveat here is that the closer you are to the main telephone switching station, the faster your connection speed will be. So when you call the telephone company about a DSL connection, make sure that it is available and also that you will be able to get a relatively fast connection. To get a DSL connection, you will need your telephone company to hook up the line. They usually provide the DSL modem as well. Sometimes the telephone company can also be the service provider, but most often, you will need a different Internet Service Provider to provide the monthly service. 

If you are accustomed to using a regular dial-up connection, you may well be amazed by the speed of a cable or DSL connection. It will make surfing the Internet a much more pleasant experience. How fast is fast? Just for a quick comparison, if a file takes one hour to download over a standard 56K modem, it will take only about 26 minutes with an ISDN line. A cable connection would take between 2.2 and 13 minutes, and a DSL connection would take between 2.2 and 26 minutes. So if you want to do some speedy surfing, think broadband.