Broadband options

Gerry Mann sent me an email the other day asking about options for obtaining high speed Internet. I thought I’d answer in this column because there still is a lot of confusion on this subject.

High speed Internet, or Broadband, is Internet at speeds reasonably far in excess of those of dialup connections. As the Internet and its services become more and more sophisticated, it is becoming important to have high speed connections. Go to and watch a complete episode of Alias or other shows. This only is possible with a high speed connection. And downloads of program updates and upgrades are so much faster with high speed.

So what are the options for obtaining high speed Internet connections? There are a number and the difference between them can be confusing. Technically, locally, for the home, there are two reasonably priced options: cable and DSL. Satellite and Wi-FI aren’t really available yet.

The highest speed connections still are from cable. In a practical sense, if you already are a subscriber to cable television, you should check with your cable provider about adding cable Internet. The cable already is in the house so making the Internet connection is reasonably simple. It is hard to check on prices because you only have one choice with cable service.

DSL, or Digital Subscriber Line, is a more complicated option. We are in the service area of SBC, now AT&T, so are limited because of the way they have chosen to supply high speed Internet. At present, except in the very newest subdivisions, SBC/AT&T still makes use of existing copper telephone lines that run into our homes. We would like fiber optic cables to our homes but they have chosen not to do this. Instead, SBC/AT&T has run fiber optical cables into “neighborhoods” and not to individual homes. They have done this because of the high cost of running fiber into homes.

These neighborhood fiber optic terminals are called “remote terminals.” The speed of our home Internet DSL connections now depends upon how far we are from these remote terminals. In my case, I was sixteen thousand “copper feet” from the Central Office at Browning and Irvine Blvd. This was just on the margin for DSL service and the speed was slow. However, they installed a remote terminal on Holt Ave and now I am around three thousand copper feet from it. My speed went way up but still is slow compared to cable. I chose DSL because I was not a cable tv subscriber and get tv from satellite.

Not only is speed a DSL issue, but cost is confusing. Many Internet service providers offer DSL at “come on” prices, good for days, weeks or years depending upon to whom you speak. However, all of them have to make use of our telephone connections that are controlled by SBC/AT&T. Consequently, you may be better off speaking directly with SBC/AT&T.

Of course, if SBC/AT&T ever installs fiber optic cables into individual homes, there would be no competition for speed: fiber optics all the way.

Cable Internet is a reasonably simple option if you already are a subscriber. DSL, unfortunately, is much more complex because of too many choices and price plans. Keep tuned as technology gets closer to our homes.

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. And visit my blog at

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


Dr. Art Holub is a long time resident of Tustin and teaches computer and Internet courses at the Tustin Area Senior Center and the Tustin Adult School. Visit his web site at: This column is written to address the computer adventures and concerns of older adults. If you have comments, questions or suggestions for future columns, Email HIM at:

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