Windows XP / Beginners

Running high-speed Internet access

If you use the Internet more than a few minutes a day, you really should look into getting a high speed line. Whether you go DSL (Digital Subscriber Line, which hooks into the telephone company's switches), cable modem (which uses the cable TV company's wire), or satellite (which bangs against that big bird in the sky), the difference in speed between a 56 Kbps dial-up connection and a 20-times-as-fast 1 Mbps broadband connection will leave your eyeballs flapping in their sockets. Run up to 6 Mbps and you may feel that you've found a new religion.

  • There's very little difference, from a technical viewpoint, between DSL and cable. Both have pros and cons, and the effective transmission speed (typically measured in millions of bits per second, or Mbps) can be doubled or quadrupled at the provider's whim. The big differences that you need to take into account are the quality of the tech support from the company you choose and the net additional price, given what you already pay for cable TV or phone service.
  • DSL and cable are (pretty much) weather-independent, but a bad rain or snowstorm will knock out satellite.
  • If you play online games, you don't want a satellite connection. Although satellite can give you great "burst" data transfer speeds, and the scores on the speed tests look wonderful, the inherent time lag in getting a signal up to the satellite and back down again plays havoc on quick game moves.

Speeds, prices, and quality of service vary all over the place, and they change from week to week and city to city. Ask people you know and trust about the service, and check the newspaper ads for prices.

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