Old dial-up Internet connections impractical

The future of the Internet will depend upon users having high-speed connections. There is just too much data available for slow dial-up connections to remain practical.

This last holiday season some on-line retailers had separate web sites and displays just for high-speed connected customers. Richly detailed catalogs with many pictures and even video displays were available only to those with these connections.

High-speed, or "Broadband," connectivity is the generic term for those types of connections that offer twenty to over one hundred times the speed of typical dial-up Internet connections.

There are a number of methods to obtain broadband connections. The most popular are cable and dsl.

Cable connections are obtained from local cable television providers over existing systems. Modern technology allows cable to provide both television signals and two-way digital connections to the Internet over the same cable that comes into the home.

Theoretically, the cable system has a very, very large "pipe." It is possible to get very high-speed Internet connections over this pipe. As cable systems are upgraded, speeds of 3000 kilobits (3 million bits per second) are available. This nearly is 60 times faster that current dial-up connections.

This means that it is possible to see the web page "" appear on the screen almost instantly and video and game displays are almost as clear as motion pictures.

If you currently are cable television customers, high-speed Internet connections should be available at a reasonable cost over and above the cable television cost. It is hard to estimate these costs since this market is hyper-competitive and many special offers are available.

The only theoretical drawback to cable Internet is that the more people connected, the slower the speed may become. This is analogous to a lawn sprinkler system where the more sprinkler heads, the less pressure in each.

DSL, or Digital Subscriber Line connections use existing telephone wires that come into the home. Through a complex sharing arrangement, many common Internet Service Providers can supply DSL high-speed Internet service. SBC, Earthlink and others make arrangements with the local telephone company to supply DSL. For instance, I was an Earthlink dial-up customer and when I switched to Earthlink DSL, I kept my existing Earthlink e-mail address. This can be an advantage.

Unfortunately, DSL speeds have a theoretical limit of about 1500 kilobits per second over existing copper telephone wires. This still is about 30 times faster than dial-up and is fast enough for most Internet use. If telephone companies install fiber optic cable, there no longer will be this limit on speed. If you do not have cable television service, DSL is a good alternative. Like cable, DSL pricing depends upon competition and can vary greatly. However, it is about the same as cable Internet.

New high-speed service is becoming available from other sources. Satellite television is popular and is starting to offer high-speed Internet. Prices are rather high right now but probably will be lower in the future. Same for "Wireless." This may be a future alternative, especially for those who travel a lot, but currently isn't really available.

When deciding on a high-speed connection, be sure to question the total cost. Some providers supply modems and installation free of charge while others require rental or purchase of these devices or services. And question whether there is dial-up backup service in the event of high-speed system failure.

Once you try a high-speed connection you will never go back to dial-up. Remember, however, that there may be lots of "specials" available but there is no free lunch.

If you would like to hear more about high-speed Internet, or other computer topics, visit "Coffee and Computers" at the Tustin Area Senior Center, 200 S. 'C' Street, any Friday morning starting at 9 a.m. Bring your questions or just come in and visit.

In the mean time, keep the neurons happy, synapses snapping and enjoy computing.


Dr. Art Holub is a long time resident of Tustin.   Visit his web site at:   If you have comments, questions or suggestions for future columns, Email him at:

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