Wednesday, July 27, 2005

How to Find Broadband Providers

Well, you've finally decided to take the plunge and upgrade from dial-up Internet service running at 56 Kbps to something at least 10 times that fast. But, how do you know if you are getting a good deal on DSL or cable modem Internet service? The same way you know if you are getting a good deal on anything else: comparison shop!

You can look in the phone book or use an Internet search engine in your quest for the best price on broadband Internet, but there's an easier way. Use a specialized broadband search tool like the one you'll find at Can I Get DSL?

Can I Get DSL? is both a question and a website that answers that question. So why do you even have to ask? It's because broadband is a fickle service. Unlike electricity and phone service which are almost universal, broadband Internet access is available in some locations and not in others. Plus, the method you'll use for broadband access also varies by location.

Here's how this works. DSL or Digital Subscriber Line is a high speed Internet technology that shares your phone line. The pair of copper wires that carry your telephone calls are actually capable of carrying much more content than is needed for simple analog voice telephone. Your voice signal occupies only the DC and low analog frequencies. Regular dial-up modems use those same low frequencies to carry computer data that has been converted to a compatible analog format.

Unfortunately, the speed limit of this type of arrangement is limited to less than 60 Kbps, often much less if the lines aren't completely interference free. DSL uses the frequency capability above the voice band to transmit higher speed signals at the same time that you use your landline for normal phone calls. The two share the line.

The limitation of DSL is that it is a short range technology. It works best when you are very close to the telephone office that is serving your location. At full capacity, you can get download speeds of 1.5 Mbps or more. Once you get a couple miles away, though, the high speed DSL signal degrades to the point where it won't run at broadband speeds. Go farther and it won't work at all. So, the question "Can I Get DSL?" is perfectly valid. You have to check for the exact phone line that will share the DSL signal. You might get service while the house across the street can't. It's that specific.

Cable TV lines can also share broadband signals along with the television signals they were designed to carry. This is called cable modem service or cable Internet. Speeds are generally as fast or faster than with DSL, but you can only get cable Internet where the local Cable TV company has strung lines. No cables, no service. Like DSL, you have to search for cable modem service by specific location.

If you are located in a new development or live in the country, you might not be able to get DSL or cable Internet. Don't despair. You can still probably get broadband Internet service via one-way or two-way satellite. One way satellite uses your phone line for the upload path with a regular modem. The download is via a higher speed signal picked up from a special satellite dish on your roof. Two way satellite dispenses with the phone line completely and uses the dish for both upload and download.

So, what broadband services are available for your home? Want to find out in less than a minute? All you have to do is go to Can I Get DSL?, enter your phone number and email address into the search engine, and click on the "qualify and compare" button. You'll get a list of offerings from DSL providers, cable Internet companies, and satellite Internet service. If you wish, you can then choose the broadband service that gives you the most for your money at your particular location.

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