High-Speed Web Access

Time is money for business owners like Antuane Barnes. The principal of Some Assembly Required is constantly on the go with his company, which specializes in the assembly and delivery of a variety of products, including home, office, and patio furniture. But when it comes to the Internet service on his computer, the businessman from Oklahoma City is moving at a snail’s pace.

“I still have dial-up connection,” concedes Barnes. “I use my computer to download business applications, music, and software,” but, “it takes so long.” While he knows having high-speed Internet access would be beneficial to his business, he says the price is just too high to pay. “I have to allocate those funds elsewhere. When the rates are lower, I’ll reconsider,” he says.

Barnes is not alone. Some 70% of American households don’t have high-speed Internet access. Presently, the high-speed Internet industry is controlled by what Mark Cooper, director of research for Consumer Federation of America, calls a “cozy duopoly” of the cable and telephone companies. The service through these companies is known as broadband, which, for about $45 per month, includes a cable modem and service through a cable carrier. Or you can opt for DSL, which is provided through a local telephone carrier for about $30 per month. Although DSL is less expensive, the cable modem moves faster. Satellite companies offer a truly wireless service for about $99 per month.

“Only 50% of households earning above $75,000 have high-speed Internet. There has not been enough competition to drive down prices. It remains to be seen whether price competition will break out,” says Cooper. Consumers can help foster competition in this industry by researching all of the products and services offered, comparing the rates of each company, and even negotiating the price that you will spend. BroadbandReports.com (www.broadband reports.com) provides information on residential and small business broadband connections. TheConsumerBridge.com (www.theconsumerbridge.com) works with 20 companies to provide discounts on high-speed Web access and other services.

To lower costs ask about “bundles.” Telephone, cable, and even some cell phone companies offer packages that will lower your rates if they have all of your business. Cellular phone companies now offer a high-speed network, which the FCC anticipates will foster more competition and lower prices.

Inquire about whether VoIP, which eliminates a phone line (and a phone bill); Wi-Fi, which allows you to work in another room or have multiple computers; and Wi-Max, which is a wireless connection within 30 miles of your computer. A viable choice for a small business, WI-Fi requires a one-time fee of $100. Rebates also are available.

For additional information on high-speed Web access, contact the FCC at (888) CALL-FCC or via its Website at http://www.fcc.gov/cgb/ consumer facts/highspeedinternet.html.