FROM THE TUSTIN NEWS, THURSDAY, OCTOBER 28, 2004


THE DOC IS IN...

There is an Internet access revolution going on

You may not be aware of it, but there is a revolution in Internet access going on again, just after we thought things had settled down and we knew our choices.

The other day, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) handed down a set of rulings opening up so-called Broadband over Power Lines (BPL). This ruling will allow power companies to supply high-speed Internet access over the power lines that already come into our homes. No more cable, dsl or dialup. Just plug a special modem into the wall socket, pay the power company whatever fees they establish, and we have a high-speed connection to the Internet.

What does this mean to us as consumers? That's a good question. The FCC hailed their Broadband over Power Lines ruling as a new day for competition, by allowing a new player to enter the high-speed Internet market.

There is a high stakes game going on and the target of this game is our pocketbook. Remember, there are approximately 100 million Internet users in the United States. At between $20 and $50 per month, this is a lot of money. We also pay for telephone service, possibly rent video movies and may subscribe to newspapers or magazines. Add this up and even more money is involved.

High-speed Internet requires that our houses be supplied with a very large "pipe." Pipe is a term for broadband, and the larger the pipe, the more information can be supplied to our homes. The game is to see who can supply our homes with the largest pipe.

Pipe sizes vary. Dialup Internet is a very small pipe. DSL or digital subscriber line supplied through the telephone companies is a medium size pipe. Cable Internet from our cable television company is a larger pipe. And probably the largest pipe we'll see is if/when someone lays a fiber optic cable into our homes.

What does "pipe size" have to do with anything? Well, whoever gets into our homes with the largest pipe will try to supply us with all our information needs. One large pipe supplying lots of services means lots of money to whomever rents us the pipe. Make sense? Telephone, video on demand and news all from the same service provider. One check at the end of the month.

There are lots of things going on out there now that involve the FCC, the courts and a variety of Internet Service Providers. There is a lot at stake for the winners in this game. If you are interested in the details, "Google" it. Otherwise, sit back and see what develops and who makes the best offer to supply our services.

To make our lives even more interesting, keep your eyes on "wireless broadband;" receiving high-speed Internet over radio waves with no wires involved. This already exists at the Starbucks of the world and new technologies are expanding the wireless service area to miles instead of feet. Then there is satellite. Many of us receive our television from satellite services. Why not Internet also? This is coming, but still is priced too high. So, sit back and enjoy this latest revolution. I'm not sure if us consumers will be the winners, but the game should be interesting to watch.

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

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

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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: www.arholub.com. 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: doc@arholub.com.


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