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[Part 3 of 7]

Connecting via a Cable Modem

There's no getting around it: Modems can't match the speed of the Internet or a local Ethernet network, and thus can be the bottleneck in your Internet connection. You can eliminate this bottleneck by acquiring a faster method to access the Internet, such as a cable modem. A cable modem connects your local Ethernet network to a cable television coaxial cable, which then connects to the Internet. And no, you won't be able to watch cable TV shows on your computers!

They're really fast

A cable modem has enormous capacity for ferrying data between the Internet and your computers: The cable modem's theoretical maximum rate for incoming data is 30 Mbps (million bits per second). Its best rate for outgoing data from your computers to the Internet is 10 Mbps. Replacing a regular modem with a cable modem is like replacing skinny water pipes in a house with big, wide ones. With a cable modem, several computers can connect to the Internet simultaneously, and nobody will suffer a slowdown.

The actual speed your cable modem delivers may be less than the theoretical maximum of 30 Mbps. For example, your cable company may offer only 1.5 Mbps because its connection to the Internet backbone is via a 1.5 Mbps T1 line.

Whatever the nominal rate, 30 Mbps or 1.5 Mbps, sometimes a cable modem connection to the Internet does slow down. When homes in your neighborhood use the Internet through their cable modems at the same time you're doing so, everybody experiences slower services. This happens because all the cable connections in a neighborhood are interconnected by the cable that runs down the street to the cable company.

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