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Not to be left behind, the cable
companies have an answer for users wishing high-speed Internet access
as well. A number of cable companies, typically larger ones, offer
users in some areas access to the Internet via your cable TV connection.
To enable this, you use a hardware
device known as a cable modem to interface between
the coax for your cable service, and your PC (or network
In general, cable speeds are
roughly comparable to DSL speeds theyre both really
fast consumer Internet access options. One advantage cable
Internet has over DSL is that theres no distance limitation
beyond the presence of the cable companys wire into your house.
If its there and the company
offers cable Internet access in your area, you can probably subscribe
to it, with none of the mystery often surrounding DSL eligibility.
Another difference between
cable Internet and DSL is in the speeds you can expect when your
neighbors on cable or DSL Internet connections are heavily using
the network. Once you subscribe to DSL at a certain speed, youre
likely to always get that speed, no matter how many of your DSL-equipped
neighbors are also downloading huge movie trailers from the Internet
at the same time. With cable Internet, however, the more
users who are downloading those movie trailers and sending
huge archives of pictures to Grandma, the slower your connection
speed becomes, because youre sharing the cables actual
wire in your neighborhood with all your neighbors.
One hint as to the early stages of these markets is that as of late 2001, early 2002, a bit of consolidation is occurring in the cable Internet world. Excite@Home exited the cable Internet business and its customers are picked up by AT&T and other carriers. This has caused a bit of commotion, as thousands of users found themselves temporarily without Internet access while they were between carriers. Situations like this are not unheard of in the DSL world, either. In the past year, one major nationwide player (Covad) went away, and others, like Qwest, are getting out of the DSL ISP business and sending their customers to other providers.
Alternatives vie against DSL and Cable
In addition to DSL and Cable Internet connectivity, other higher-speed technologies are beginning to enjoy popularity.
Satellite TV companies are providing Satellite Internet access. Any location that has line-of-sight to the satellite can use this technology, thus making it available to many users who dont have DSL or cable modem access. A downside to satellite Internet connectivity is the 2-second lag in transmission between the Internet and the client PC, as the signal is bounced up to the satellite and back to earth.
Wireless networking often provides speeds as fast as, or faster than, cable Internet or DSL. Some metropolitan areas have begun public, or semi-public wireless networking efforts, sharing a high-capacity Internet line with a neighborhood or region by placing Wireless Access Points and antennas around where those with 802.11 cards in their notebooks and PDAs can access the Internet at LAN speeds.
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