Guide to Selecting a
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An Internet Provider (Internet Service Provider or ISP) is a company that provides Internet connection to private and business customers. An ISP enables Internet users to access the Internet.

For a monthly fee, the Internet Provider will provide its customers with a username and a password to give them access to the Internet (Worldwide Web).

Internet access can be generally broken down into two categories:

1.   Dial-up.
2.   Broadband.

Dial-Up Connection:
A dial-up connection, at one stage, used to be the standard but has now given way to a more efficient standard called Broadband Internet. It is connected to the Internet via your Internet Provider using a standard 56K modem.

An access telephone number which is provided by your Internet Provider is used to connect to the ISP's server thereby giving you access to the Internet.

This system is slow especially when downloading files and also inconvenient if there are no separate dedicated lines for Internet and home telephone.

Dial-up is still used in certain remote areas because of the unavailability of Broadband and by some individuals due to the comparatively low cost.

If you use a dial-up connection, make sure to sign up with an Internet Provider that has local access numbers. If not, you will be paying long distance charges everytime you go online!

Also, try to get unlimited access (if it is not too expensive.)

  • Dial-Up - Advantages:
    • Cheaper than Broadband.
    • Availability in a wider area than Broadband. A number of areas are not accessible by Broadband.
    • Convenient for travelling Internet users - People moving from one place to another but just need a telephone line to connect to the Internet.

  • Dial-Up - Disadvantages:
    • Internet access is slow since the maximum speed of the modem is 56K resulting in the slow download of Web pages.
    • Requires the Internet user to dial-up resulting in 'waiting time' to establish a telephone connection to gain Internet access.
    • Missed calls if using the same line for making calls and connecting to the Internet unless the user has two lines with one being dedicated to the Internet.
    • Might not be able to play some online games.

Broadband Connection:
This is a high-speed Internet connection which uses DSL, cable, satellite or fiber-optic. It is convenient, fast and offers a better enjoyment of the Internet.

  • Broadband - Advantages:
    • Faster speed connection enabling web pages to download faster. This is especially good if you are downloading very large files.
    • No dial-up problems.
    • No telephone line drop-out problems.
    • Telephone is not 'tied' up while you are online.
    • No more 'busy' signals.
    • Ideal for online gaming.

    Like dial-up, DSL (Digital Subscriber Line) connection also depends on an existing telephone line to connect to the Internet but it does not tie up your telephone line.

    DSL technology splits your telephone line into two individual channels which allows you to be able to talk and use the Internet at the same time.

    This eliminates the necessity for a second telephone line since voice and data transfer are allowed at the same time.

    DSL service is generally offered by local telephone companies.

      DSL - Advantages:
    • 'Always on' connection makes accessing the Internet quicker.
    • It is a dedicated connection not shared with anyone else.
    • Excellent for playing online games.

      DSL - Disadvantages:
    • Unavailable in remote areas.
    • Security risk results from its 'Always on' advantage since hackers like the convenience of having a computer that is 'always available'!

    This connection is designed to operate using your Cable company's cable TV lines. It does not require a telephone line to be connected to the Internet.

      Cable - Advantages:
    • 'Always on' connection makes accessing the Internet quicker.
    • Excellent for playing online games.

      Cable - Disadvantages:
    • Cable modem download speed is generally up to approximately two times faster than DSL, but, due to shared bandwidth (Click here for the definition of bandwidth) with other Internet cable subscribers, the speed could sometimes be slower than DSL depending on Internet traffic.
    • Like DSL, security risk results from its 'Always on' advantage since hackers like the convenience of having a computer that is 'always available'!

  • Satellite:
    The satellite Internet is another method of being connected to the Internet. It is an expensive option but is convenient for people living in rural/remote areas where other types of Broadband connections are unavailable.

    All that is required is enough electricity to operate a computer!

    This connection does not use a telephone or a cable system. Each subscriber must have a dish. Some of the disadvantages of a satellite connection is that it is susceptible to rain fades and solar interference.

  • Fiber-Optic:

    Fiber-optic broadband systems enable data transmission between points over an optical fiber cable. The data is in the form of light pulses. These connecting fiber-optic cables are usually situated underground.

Cable and DSL - Home Networking
DSL and Cable connections can be easily shared with other computers on your home local area network (LAN) by using Microsoft Internet Connection Sharing software or other connection device.

For security of your computer, a router with a firewall is recommended.

You should contact your Internet Provider regarding sharing Internet connection since this might be contrary to your contract with them.

What is Bandwidth?

Bandwidth is the amount of data which can be transmitted in a set amount of time.

Internet Provider - Competition

If you live in an area where various types of Internet connections are offered, you should be able to get some very good offers to chose from. Because of competition, the Internet Service Providers might be offering various types of discounts to entice Internet users to use their service.

Those with telephone service, might even bundle the telephone and Internet services with a discount offer.

In the case of the cable Internet Provider, their offer could be bundled with Internet and cable TV service.

You should thoroughly check these various offers - read the fine print!

Two of the larger service providers, Comcast Cable and AT&T Hi-Speed Internet, are offering cable television, digital telephone and Internet service as 'bundled' packages. Comcast calls their package XFINITY and AT&T calls their package UVERSE.

There is a major upgrade to data transmission referred to as T1 Internet Line. A T1 line describes a special type of copper or fiber optic telephone line which can carry more data than regular telephone lines.

AT&T Bell Labs for North America and Japan developed the T-carrier line.

The use of twisted copper lines have been the 'norm' for a long time for voice tranmisions by analog signals.

Although there is fiber optic, T1 lines are still made of twisted copper. T1 lines are still able to handle large datastreams.

Standard telephone lines are able to transmit data and voice at approximately 30 kbps when using a dial-up modem.

A T1 broadband line is able to transmit approximately 1.5 Mbt/s or 24 digitized voice channels.

This T1 line is ideal for a commercial building phone service or for network data transfer since it's approximately 60 times faster the regular modem.

It is prudent for companies that have many phone lines to invest in a dedicated T1 line since this can reduce phone charges and provide high-speed Internet simultaneously.

Do the 'math' ..... A company pays for one T1 line instead of many separate telephone lines!

T1 lines are more expensive but prices are reducing as demand increases.

Choosing an Internet Provider

If you are using a dial-up connection, get a package with Unlimited Access.

For Broadband services, check out the various providers in your area. For DSL, you will need to do a telephone number check for availability of this service at your location. For cable, it will depend on the availability of cable service in your area.

Whatever type of connection that you choose, ensure that your service contract includes technical support.

There are approximately 13 Internet Service Providers (ISPs) in the continental U.S.A.

Final Thoughts...... Dial-Up vs. Broadband

To make a decision as to the type of Internet connection that you will require from an Internet Provider, ask yourself how long do you spend on the Internet each time you are online and what you use the Internet for.

Please note that with the present offers being made by various ISPs, Broadband might not be that much more expensive than dial-up; especially if you have a second telephone line for the convenience of not having your telephone line tied up while using a dial-up Internet connection. With Broadband, you would not need that second line!

If you use dial-up a few times each week to check your e-mail and do minimal web browsing, you could use a dial-up connection. But, if you use the Internet several times each day for various types of activities including downloading data, playing online games and sharing music or video files, you should definitely consider a Broadband connection.

You could also cut your Broadband costs by using the same Internet Provider for other services such as telephone, TV and mobile telephone accounts.

Also... be on the look out for some special introductory offers!

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