Weighing In on DSL
DSL (Digital Subscriber Line) is a technology working hard to catch up to its potential. DSL is popular because of its speed and always-on connections (more about that later). But in a TechTV broadband user survey, the complaints most frequently cited by DSL users were "failure to receive advertised connection speeds and frequent inability to connect to their service." DSL could be great, but it's still getting there.
DSL connects your computer to the Internet by sending high-speed data through copper phone wires. DSL isn't offered everywhere, but phone companies are working hard to add DSL service to their offerings.
Even if your local phone company offers DSL service, you might not get hooked up right away. The number of ports in each of the phone company's central offices determines the number of DSL users the system can support. If no port is available in your area, you won't be able to get DSL service until the company adds more ports, or a current user unsubscribes.
Upload, DownloadWhat's the Dif?
When you start researching broadband connection options, you'll see speeds rated for uploading and downloading. Those terms refer to the direction of the data transfer through the connection. Data passing from your computer to the Internet is being uploaded; information feeding into your machine from the Internet is being downloaded. The speeds for the two types of transfers are always different, because uploading is slower than downloading. Because most Web activitiesfrom surfing to e-mailrequire both actions, both upload and download speeds matter.
DSL Pros and Cons
DSL is becoming one of the most popular Internet connection methods. Some experts predict that by 2002, more than half of all Internet users will receive broadband transmissions, and DSL and cable modem are the two current technology leaders in broadband delivery. Here are some of the good things about DSL:
DSL is fast; from most services, you should look for speeds up to 384Kbps for downloads and 128Kbps for uploading.
Most DSL connections are "always on" (though some, like Earthlink, use PPPoE or point-to-point protocol over Ethernet, where you're assigned an IP address and have to connect, just as in DUN).
DSL works through dedicated linesno line-sharing or security worries, like those you have with cable modem.
Even though DSL works through phone lines, it doesn't tie up yours. You can be online and talk on the phone at the same time, without adding a second line.
Now, take a look at the DSL "dark side":
Offerings and services vary, but DSL can be expensive. In addition to the hardware costs, your phone company might charge you a monthly DSL fee (the amount varies, but it's usually between $40 and $50) and a separate ISP charge of $10 or more. Again, the pricing and "packaging" of DSL varies from area to area, so be sure you determine exactly what your DSL deal provides.
The farther you live from the phone system's "hub," the less speedy your connection will be.
If your system goes down, you might have to wait a long time for service. Many phone companies launched DSL services without knowing how much maintenance and repair the services would require. As a result, they got off to a rocky start, with lots of down time and slow service response. Look for this issue to resolve itself as the systemsand providersget "broken in."
"Free" DSL Might Not Be