With a 28.8 Kbps (kilobits per second) Internet connection, WWW can take on a whole new meaning: World Wide Wait. Compelling content like top-quality video and audio, interactive game playing, Internet telephony and business applications such as Internet group collaboration are nearly impossible to facilitate through analog dial-up connections, also known as plain old telephone service (POTS). Consequently, there is a race among bandwidth providers to deliver much-needed faster connections on the Internet to your home or business.
Who really needs greater speed? The growing list includes individuals or businesses that are considering hosting their own Web site on a server, those that want autonomy over security issues around their local area network (LAN) or that want to implement efficient-operation tools such as videoconferencing. Others include companies or individuals that transfer and access unusually large databases or files like audio and video clips or desktop publishing documents.
The options currently available include POTS, presently the most popular mode of Net access, ISDN (integrated services digital network) and cable access. While DSL (digital service lines), satellite and radio-based delivery and T1 lines are available, they are either too costly or not widely deployed enough to warrant great detail in this article.
When deciding which bandwidth choice is right for you, consider the elements of your actual needs, such as upload and download rates, cost and the availability of the service in your area. Total cost may include associated equipment such as special modems, installation and monthly usage fees.
The first rung on the ladder of greater access is analog modems such as the 56 Kbps, which operate through your POTS. They range in price from $80 to $120. If you use the Internet mostly for text e-mail and occasional Web surfing, then this solution can deliver acceptable service.
If you’ve grown beyond simple e-mail and light surfing, and wish to venture out toward activities such as telephony, videoconferencing and simultaneous data and voice activity, then ISDN is a much better bet. ISDN is a direct dial service, meaning that you will have the flexibility to dial up other ISDN services/facilities of your choice, but it is also tied to your POTS. If your ISDN goes down, so does your standard phone service. Having a separate phone line is a wise decision. ISDN delivers up to 128 Kbps and is widely available in regions across the country. For example, Bell Atlantic has over 450,000 ISDN lines in the Mid-Atlantic region that are mainly used by business customers.
The cost of ISDN varies by state. For example, in Virginia, Bell Atlantic offers 20 hours of monthly usage for $31 or 60 hours for $45, while Ameritech charges one monthly flat fee of $30-$70 (which allows for unlimited voice usage) and a per minute rate on data usage. ISDN modems typically cost $200-$500, along with an installation fee of about $125. If this is the service for you, ask about promotions in which the installation fee is waived.
Cable modems are poised to compete for a niche in the