CeePrompt! Computer Connection

Originally published Monday, May 1, 2000

High-speed Net access has arrived

After months of patient waiting, high speed Internet access has finally found its way to the grand old neighborhoods of our inner city. Since November last I've been lusting over Internet connection speeds enjoyed by others, ranging from 384Kbps to 1.5 MB, only to be denied due to geographic boundaries. But DSL has finally arrived in my neighborhood and is well worth the wait. The need for speed is met.

The bandwidth difference is remarkable when moving from a standard 56.6K modem to a 384K digital connection. Web pages load instantly, files are transferred in a flash and Java scripts and plug-ins such as Macromedia load effortlessly without endless hourglass time. Because the connection is always on, there's no dial-up or login process or need for a second phone line, for that matter.

DSL service is delivered through your existing copper phone wires that Pacific Bell owns. PacBell sells DSL directly or leases its lines to Internet Services Providers, such as locals InReach Internet and Valley Internet Professionals, who then package and sell their own DSL service.

Because they have provided me with reliable Internet connectivity and service since 1995, I elected to use InReach to deliver my DSL service. The DSL modem, Ethernet card and installation were free, thanks to a promotional offer. InReach owns and maintains their own equipment at the PacBell central station, giving them greater control over their DSL delivery service.

An additional consideration was the static IP (Internet Protocol) address offered by InReach. This is akin to having a permanent address or phone number on the Net. PacBell offers its residential customers dynamic IP addressing, meaning that the Internet address for their DSL customers is always changing. With a static IP address, you can be a host for web pages, files and networking.

Prior to choosing DSL, I explored RoadRunner, the high speed Internet cable service offered by MediaOne. The monthly fees were less than DSL and the connection speeds were higher. So what's the question? First, it's not available in my neighborhood and second is sharing. We're taught growing up that sharing is a good thing, but not when it comes to bandwidth. I don't want to share.

RoadRunner customers share their ample cable bandwidth with all the MediaOne customers in their neighborhood. This includes cable TV, Internet access and eventually telephony services, now that AT&T has acquired MediaOne. While RoadRunner boasts lightening download speeds of 1.5Mbs, during peak hours of high usage this may drop significantly and more closely approximate DSL speeds or less. Additionally, RoadRunner utilizes a system of dynamic rather than static IP addressing, which again was an important consideration.

There are pros and cons on both sides of the high speed access options. As a consumer you must weigh these against your own needs and then choose. Like everything else in this industry, your choices are only going to expand with time. For me, DSL was the right choice at this time.

The installation was smooth and took less than an hour, after a three-week appointment wait. The technician connected DSL at the phone jack and then set up the necessary Ethernet card. This is an actual circuit card that must be installed on the PC's motherboard. An Ethernet cable then connects the PC and DSL modem to the outlet. Your telephone is connected to the same line and works simultaneously without a hitch.

Post-DSL, I'm now enjoying bandwidth measurements consistently between 320Kbs and 380Kbs. You too can easily check your connection speeds by visiting MSN Computing Central, http://www.2wire.com/dlp/dlp_bandwidth.html, or 2Wire at http://www.2wire.com/dlp/dlp_bandwidth.html

High speed Internet access costs between $40-$70 monthly for residential service, depending on the ISP offerings. While this might seem hefty at first, consider that you no longer need a second phone line for dedicated Internet service. The cost savings in time are priceless.

Next article: Firewalls - Protecting your "always on" Internet connection.


Cathi Schuler owns a computer literacy training/consulting company, Cee Prompt! She is a co-author of computer textbooks and can be reached by e-mail at cschuler@uop.edu or cschuler@ceeprompt.com or by mail c/o The Record, P.O. Box 900, Stockton, CA 95201. She is on the Internet at: http://www.ceeprompt.com. Click here for past archived columns.

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