With so many choices for high-speed Internet connections these days, is it any wonder that people become confused about which is the best choice for their needs?


It is worth mentioning immediately that recently advertised AOL Topspeed, Netzero HiSpeed, etc., are not true high speed Internet services. They simply make some web page content load a little faster than normal, but do not affect much else.

There are currently three ways you can connect to the internet at much faster speeds than dialup.

The two main competitors for your Internet dollars are visibly cable and DSL, while satellite manages to hold on in third place. All, on the surface, offer a similar product, but the actual services, speeds and costs can be very different.

Cable Internet

The pros - In most cases, cable is the fastest of the three services. People in newer neighborhoods, especially near a cable network station, will notice the greatest difference at up to 40 times the speed of dialup service. If you are someone who uses the Internet for research, game-playing, watching video or e-mailing family photos, this is light years ahead of a 56k dialup. Also, because of the already well established network in most areas, this service is widely available.

The cons for home users - At approximately $40 per month, the cost can be prohibitive for average Internet users, especially if they only use the internet for an hour or so a day. For such people, it means they can read their e-mails in 40 minutes rather than an hour.

The cons for business users - Although similar to home service, the charges are very much higher, plus they can involve paying for extra services, such as e-mail, where for home users they are included at no extra charge.

DSL (Digital Subscriber Line)

The pros - DSL is marginally cheaper than cable for home use. For businesses, especially with average use, it can work out much cheaper than cable internet. One of the nicer features is that you can choose from speed packages. This allows you to choose a speed that best suits your usage so you are not paying for more than what you need.

The cons - DSL can range anywhere from 30 to 60 percent slower than cable. If your Internet use is larger and more intensive, this could make a very noticeable difference. Although the DSL companies have been going all out over the last few years with conversions and laying new lines, the service is still not widely available in many outlying or rural areas. Also, for businesses, in addition to the DSL service, you will need a special DSL-ISP, and there are only a few in Virginia.

Satellite Internet

The Pros - The price is comparable with business DSL, plus it can be used in remote areas where neither of the other services are available.

The Cons - It is not really cost-effective for home use and the service speed is about 50 percent of DSL (one-fourth of cable). Also, local terrain, such as mountains or trees and adverse weather conditions such as heavy snow or rainstorms, can slow or even stop Internet access depending on severity.

Overall view:

For home use, cable Internet is definitely the best choice and offers the best value for money. If cable is not available, DSL is a close second. Failing that, satellite, even with its speed and weather limitations, is still about 10 times faster than a dialup.

For business use, consult your technical support department and assess your usage needs. Because of the different packages available, DSL can be tailored to meet your exact needs and can win out on cost in many business cases. Cable, despite expense, would be second and, as with home use, satellite is a big improvement on dialup if there's just nothing else available yet.

Next month - Take your partners for the Google dance.

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