Into the Fast Lane

Although a home wireless fidelity (Wi-Fi) network can easily interconnect home-based PCs, the main attraction of having a PC is the wealth of information just a few clicks away on the Internet.

News, weather, sports, email, research, long-distance gaming, business—these are only a few of the reasons to want your home net to be an extension of the World Wide Web. After a high-capacity broadband line is completed to your home, you may distribute data from it to several PCs.

According to researchers at the Pew Internet and American Life Project, users who forsake slow telephone modems for broadband access:

  • Create more content for other web users. On a typical day, 16 percent of broadband users update their web site or post to web diaries or chat rooms, for example. Only 3 percent of dial-up users create content on the average day.
  • Learn more. Eighty-six percent of broadband users say that the Internet has improved their ability to learn new things, as compared with 73 percent of dial-up users.
  • Go online more often than dial-up users. Eighty-two percent of broadband users are online on a given day, compared to 58 percent of dial-up users.
  • Shop online. Thirty-one percent of broadband users say the Internet has reduced the amount of time they spend shopping in stores.
  • Work from home. One-third of broadband users telecommute occasionally. Fifty-eight percent of broadband users who telecommute say they spend more time working at home because of the Internet.
  • Surf more. On a typical day, a broadband user does about seven online activities (such as news, healthcare, or hobby surfing). By contrast, dial-up users do three Internet activities on the average day.
  • Use the Internet to study. When asked about their most recent major school report, 71 percent of teenagers with Internet access said they relied upon Internet sources the most in completing the project. That compares to 24 percent who said they relied on library sources the most (according to Pew Internet Project’s Broadband report).

DSL, from whatever source, is billed at a fixed price monthly, most often without regard to actual usage. Exceptions occur, which we will explain later, but usually your bill will be the same whether you just pick up your email or “surf ‘till you drop.”

After you have your broadband line, you can use it any time night or day, and see any or all parts of the Internet. You won’t have to log on because even if your ISP requires a username and password, they will be supplied automatically. No modern business would expect their employees to function effectively without Internet access.

Naturally, those of us who work from home can be more productive with a dedicated wide area network (WAN) line. It follows that homeowners and apartment dwellers can benefit from the knowledge and communication available on the Web as well. Broadband is more widely available to residential users and less expensive than ever before.

Presently, four methods are available for bringing the Internet to your doorstep. Your choice will depend first on their availability and then, if you have more than one choice, on price:

  • Asymmetric digital subscriber line (ADSL), which uses a highfrequency signal impressed onto your telephone line
  • Cable DSL, riding unused channel space on your cable TV line
  • Satellite DSL, which uses the same link as satellite TV, only bidirectionally
  • Wireless DSL (wDSL), which is long-distance Wi-Fi

All the previous methods have some characteristics in common, and regardless of the media used to transport it, DSL is sometimes referred to as ADSL.