Scotty, I Need Web Speed, Now!

Today's Internet users demand faster and faster access. As web sites get more graphical and e-mail becomes more pervasive, downloadable software grows larger. Downloading 20 MB patch files from Microsoft is not uncommon.

If you are not willing to start a large download and let it run overnight, or find yourself frustrated by slow web sites, there may be a solution on the horizon. Beyond the standard modem dial-up connection, several new standards have appeared. While they are not available in all areas, expect them to become very popular in the months to come.

The most promising new service is a cable modem. While technically not a modem at all, this device connects to the Internet through a digital cable-TV connection. Cable companies are rushing to make this service available to attract new revenues. For about double the monthly cost of a standard dial-up 56kbps Internet connection, a cable modem can provide up to 90 times the speed (4 Mbps). In addition, a cable modem connection is always live, so home users can host their own web site or have their PC automatically check e-mail 24 hours per day. The downside? Cable bandwidth is shared among all the users in a neighborhood, so connection speed will drop during busy periods. And some cable companies will not support LAN connections to allow your entire office to connect. Digital satellite users can use the DirectPC service to achieve download speeds of 400kbps, however a regular analog modem is still required for uploading data.

A third new option, Digital Subscriber Line, or DSL, is already being offered by a few local ISPs. However, while the cost is comparable to cable modems, the speed tends to be lower.


Update: June, 2002 - DSL service is now available in most areas in Chicagoland. Please see our page on DSL service for more details and to check availability in your area.

May 1999

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