From the Kenosha News on 12-4-05

Pick the high-speed internet service right for you

If you’ve been using dial-up and you’re ready to move to a broadband service, it’s important to understand the options and costs. First, all three of the broadband options (DSL, cable, and satellite) differ from dial-up as follows:

  • they are "always on", meaning you don't dial in each time you want to connect;
  • they don't interfere with your use of your phone line; and
  • they are significantly faster than dial-up, at least for “downstream” use (from the internet to your computer). The maximum dial-up speed is 56Kbps, which is 1/20th of 1Mbps. For most users, downstream speed is most important since web surfing transfers data from the internet to your computer and only sends minimal amounts of data “upstream.” E-mail and instant messenger use both up and downstream equally, but IM uses only minimal bandwidth, and slow outgoing e-mail would rarely be bothersome. Gaming requires fairly high speeds in both directions to work well.

The fastest and most expensive of the broadband options is cable – locally called RoadRunner and provided by Time Warner cable. Time Warner touts speeds up to 5Mbps (megabits per second) downstream, but more realistic estimates are closer to 3Mbps. You can read their information on-line at http://www.rr.com/rdrun/.

RoadRunner comes in over your cable TV connection. If you don’t use cable TV, you may have to pay an installation fee, and you may pay more for the internet service than if it were part of a package. Of course, promotional packages may offer to waive those fees. Once you sign up with Roadrunner, you get a “cable modem” – a device that connects to your cable TV jack and provides an Ethernet connection that you connect to your computer or to a router device that would allow you to use multiple computers at the same time.

DSL is the option that we use at home. It is available from SBC, comes in through your phone line, and is charged on your phone bill. There are two different levels of DSL. The less expensive package (called Express) advertises speeds of 1.5Mbps downstream and 384Kbps upstream but can be as low as 384Kbps downstream and 128Kbps upstream. It costs from $17 to $22 per month. The faster package (called Pro) touts 3Mbps downstream and 512Kbps upstream but can be as low as 1.5Mbps and 384Kbps. It runs $27 to $35 per month.

DSL is only available within 18,000 cable feet from the telephone company's central office, and the closer you are to the central office, the better. Check with SBC or TDS for availability at your address. With the service, you will get a DSL modem and some special DSL connectors. The connectors must be used on each of your phones, and the modem connects to your phone line and provides Ethernet for your computer.

Satellite is not generally competitive with other options but has the advantage of being available in locations not served by DSL or cable. DirecWay (DirectTV’s satellite internet) uses a satellite disk, delivers downstream speeds up to 700 Kbps and upstream speeds up to 128 Kbps, and costs $600 for installation and $60 per month for 15 months. 

By Carol Sabbar from the Kenosha News on 12-4-05