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Being connected to the Internet and having your own dial-up Internet account is a major part of establishing an Internet presence.  If you have been on the Internet longer than six (6) months, you already know that being online can sometimes be frustrating.  Over the past few months you may have seen many articles about the cost of having an online account is going down.  Even if you are currently relatively satisfied with your Internet Service Provider (ISP), it is likely that you have already looked into things like cable access and you have heard about DSL* (Digital Subscriber Line) access.  If your first dial-up account was through AOL, you are probably still with AOL whether you are really happy with them or not.  Learning how to get around on the Internet is a lot like learning how to use a word processor for the first time.  People tend to stay with the first word processor they learn simply because they feel that they do not want to go through the learning process again with a new program.  AOL is the largest ISP in the US, and for many people AOL is the ISP they love to hate.  If you do not use AOL and have ever tried to talk an AOL user into switching, you know that you might as well try to a man to switch his brand of socks or underwear.

Over the next year (perhaps less given that Internet time is not always in sync with real world time) there will be many new DSL offerings, and anyone even remotely thinking about getting cable access now should put it off until the dust is settled with DSL.   "Unlike competing technologies, DSL eliminates the need for extensive and expensive infrastructure upgrades improvements that are hard to measure in terms of time or money. Where original telephone company strategies centered on the time-consuming and costly task of fiber installation, demand for multimegabit services has forced them to evaluate approaches that leverage the existing infrastructure and provide a quicker time to market. That is one of DSL technology's chief advantages the ability to transform the nearly 700 million phone lines installed worldwide into multimegabit data pipes capable of speeding digital video and data to homes and businesses."*  In terms of download time cable technology may appear to have a slight advantage over DSL, but there are three (3) "features" about cable technology that make it basically unfit as a long-term Internet connection solution.

First, the speed claims for cable access are based solely on optimum cable capacity, but cable companies never tell you that the cable bandwidth must be shared (yes, SHARED) with every other subscriber on the line.  That means that performance will be degraded as more people come online using cable access.  There is only one cable servicing an area, which means that there is only one pipe for information to travel along on its way to your system.  With DSL service each subscriber has their own direct line for delivery of service, and that line is the phone line coming into your home (office).   Thus, you do not have to SHARE your DSL bandwidth with anyone except someone that might be sharing the service in your home (office).

Second, the security of cable access is weak at best.  Once again you have to consider that your service is coming in over the same line as the service for every other person sharing the cable.  For many this is not a big issue, but you should never let someone convince you that cable service is as secure as DSL service.  It just is not so.

Third, even though cable access is shared with other subscribers on the cable it is very difficult at best to really network cable access within a home (office) because the cable access provided to consumers generally allows for only a single IP per subscriber.   This is not the case with DSL service.

"At the same time that many traditional telephone companies are facing competition from cable companies, wireless operators, and other new service providers, regulatory agencies worldwide have begun to allow outside access to the central office and local copper wires. We will cover some of the regulatory issues later in this chapter. The market dynamics, coupled with the insistent demand from commercial and residential service users for higher speeds, innovative services and reasonable prices, have created the cause and the effect of the spiraling need for bandwidth."

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From the DSL Sourcebook*

"The result of this spiraling demand for bandwidth is a marketplace in flux. Service providers and service users alike seek economical bandwidth solutions for emerging high-speed applications. Although DSL technology enables broadband applications over virtually any existing copper loop, it currently provides solutions that are better suited for some service offerings than others. For example, although it is generally agreed that residential demand for entertainment and other services will eventually provide a mass market for DSL-based service deployment, the early market opportunity is in Campus/Private Network environments and in support of commercial business applications."*

"Over the last few years, the Internet, or more correctly, the World Wide Web has had a profound impact on our ideas about information flow. Once the exclusive domain of academia, the Internet's global collection of interconnected computer networks has become the medium of choice for the dissemination of information for both individuals and corporations."*

"The idea of an easy and cost effective way to provide updated information to employees, partners, and customers is extremely attractive to businesses. This new and simple way to communicate gives people the freedom to develop much richer content than ever before. But this new found freedom comes with a price the graphical nature of the content creates large files which have to be downloaded into the user's PC. Given the speeds of analog modems, a lot of time is spent waiting for file downloads even though the bandwidth of the backbone network keeps increasing. Most frequently, the cause is a bottleneck in the local loop."

"Recently, we have seen two new trends emerge in the Web environment that increase bandwidth requirements by at least an order of magnitude."


The addition of audio and video media to Web computing based on the TCP/IP protocol.


The integration of a push paradigm of content presentation into the existing pull paradigm that is represented by today's Web browser. The pull paradigm requires active participation from a user to access content (i.e., typing URLs, initiating searches, etc.), while the push paradigm feeds content to a passive viewer/listener (for example, stock ticker for text, radio for audio, and TV for video).

"The Web browser is evolving into an interface supporting not only audio, video, and other multimedia applications, but also the blend of pull/push paradigms for content presentation, opening up the Web to a wide range of applications as shown."

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Emerging Web-based application matrix generated by the addition
of audio and video media, and integration of the pull/push
paradigms of content presentation*


* For more complete information on DSL technology consult the DSL Sourcebook online.



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