What are all these internet connections?

Dial-up vs. Broadband: Which is right for you?

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The short answer:

From dial-up to cable, you’ve heard of many types of internet connections—but are they really that different from one another?

  • There are two kinds of connections: broadband and dial-up.
  • Broadband includes connections like Fiber-Optic, DSL and cable.
  • There are many differences between connections-your needs determine what kind of connection is best.

 

The longer answer:

From dial-up to cable, you’ve heard of many types of internet connections—but are they really that different from one another? The short answer is no. There are (more or less) two kinds of connections: broadband and dial-up.

Common internet connections like DSL and cable both fall underneath the broadband category. All connections are measured by data transfer speed known as kilobits per second (Kbps) and megabits per second (Mbps).

Fiber-Optic, also known as Fiber to the Home (FTTH), is the cutting edge of internet connections. It works by transmitting data through pulses of light generated by lasers. Talk about futuristic!  It has the capability to reach speeds of 1 Gbps (gigabit per second), which makes it the fastest broadband connection available by a long shot. But if it’s so great, why aren’t we all on Fiber-Optic? Unfortunately, availability is still very limited. It costs ISPs a lot of money to install Fiber-Optic lines, especially when DSL and cable are still viable options.

A Digital Subscriber Line (DSL) is a broadband connection with a variety of high-speed connections ranging from 128 Kbps to 3 Mbps. It offers reliable network performance through a wide bandwidth so you are able do things quickly online such as stream audio and video.

DSL connects users to the internet through a telephone network via a two-wire copper telephone line. That two-wire line means that, unlike a dial-up connection, you can use your phone line and the internet simultaneously. Furthermore, a DSL connection is always on so there’s no need to dial into the internet every time you want to go online.

The last common broadband connection we’ll talk about is cable internet. This type of connection uses a cable modem to provide fast access to the internet by transmitting data using the TV channel space. A cable internet connection is typically up to two times faster than DSL and convenient for cable television subscribers who are already wired for cable television.

In contrast to dial-up and DSL where your connection is only yours, a cable connection may be shared by hundreds of your neighbors. If you and all your neighbors are trying to use the cable connection at once, the internet speed may slow down significantly.

Remember the heyday of AOL in the 90’s? It was the big provider of dial-up internet and the technology hasn’t changed much. Just as it did then, a dial-up connection gets you online by dialing into the internet through your phone line each time. The fastest dial-up connection uses a 56 Kbps modem. Compared to other connections, that’s slow. The upside to dial-up is that it’s available in more places, including rural areas. In fact, in some rural areas dial-up might be the only option.

If you are considering a dial-up connection and a landline telephone, we highly recommend having two phone lines. Otherwise, you’ll experience that classic situation where you get kicked off the internet because a family member decides to make a phone call.

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