TechTV's Technology Survival Guide: Get Internet Access
Weigh your access options
Consider a cable modem connection
Decide whether DSL is for you
Size up satellite Internet
Choose fixed wireless
Use a dial-up networking connection (for better or worse)
Internet connection options have grownbut they might shrink again soon. You still can choose to use a dial-up networking connection through a 56Kbps modem, or you can opt for one of the screamerscable modem, DSL, or satellite connection. However you do it, you need to know the best way to make and manage your Internet connection.
You can use this chapter as your "superguide" to Internet connectivity. In it, you learn the ups and downs of the major connection options and basic modem management techniques.
Eyeing Your Internet Connection Options
Many people buy a computer solely for Internet access. Web surfing and e-mailing are a big part of most people's computer experience. With the growing demand for broadband contentanimation, audio, and video with a need for speed greater than a traditional 56K transfer ratethe demand for faster connection methods grows, too.
So how does everyone get on the Internet? Here are the most common ways people access the Net today:
Dial-up networking (DUN) is still the most common method of Internet access used in the United States. DUN is built into Windows and MacOS. It uses standard phone lines, software, and an internal or external modem to dial in to an ISP and make the PC/Internet connection.
Cable modems are external devices that connect to an Ethernet network card called a NIC (network interface card) in your PC. Cable TV companies provide cable modem access, which is available in most (but not all) areas.
DSL (Digital Subscriber Line) services are high-speed Internet connections that usually are provided by the local phone company. Like cable, DSL requires a NIC and a DSL modem or router installed for your system.
Satellite Internet service is available, but it's not as common as other connection methods. Only a few providers exist so far, with a Microsoft joint venture called Teledesic scheduled to open in 2005. Satellite Internet requires a satellite dish and mount, satellite modem, receiver, transmitter cards, and a few hundred bucks worth of software. In most cases, that's itno additional phone line or dial-up connection is required.
Each of these Internet connection options has its own list of pros and cons, as you see in the information that follows. As technologies evolve and become more widespread, expect the Internet connection landscape to change dramatically. Right now, you have some interesting choices for getting online.