Deciding Between DSL or Cable

by Felice Wu

High-speed Internet access is now available in many parts of Los Angeles through DSL (Digital Subscriber Line) technology and cable modems. But, with all the hoopla around these recent developments in high bandwidth technologies, it can be a little confusing trying to figure out how to get the best mileage out of your connection. These technologies leave ISDN or a 56Kbps modem in the dust, for a lot less money than a T1. Early DSL users and cable modem subscribers have found the speed and the economy a godsend. But, which one will suit your business better?

DSL uses the copper telephone wires that already cross the globe, carrying your voice and bringing you the Internet via dial-up connections. Cable modems utilize the cables that deliver the movie channels and cartoon extravaganzas to your television. Both technologies are always on, eliminating the need to log on or worry about getting disconnected. This means you can get on your computer, run any Internet program, and it'll automatically work, since it's already connected. Both technologies also allow you to use your telephone at the same time you're online, by letting you talk over the same line if you're on DSL (eliminating the need to get another line for your connection like you'd require with ISDN or a T-1) or just by using a different source if you're on cable modem. Ethernet cards in your PC are required for either technology.

Theoretically, DSL sends and receives data at rates up to 8Mbps, while cable modems can offer download speeds up to 10Mbps. DSL providers can give you different actual speeds for different prices. However, cable modems can't give you a steady, reliable speed, due to the fact that your cable line is shared.

Cable modem users are set up as a LAN or Local Area Network to share a single fiber connection among hundreds of subscribers or more, depending on your area. The more people connected to the Internet, the slower your connection, so at peak hours you might not be surfing faster than a 28.8 modem. Check to see what they can actually guarantee at all times.

DSL does not share lines, since it runs on your individual phone line, so the higher speeds can be guaranteed. However, the setup requires that you be within three miles to a telephone company's central office. Fortunately, most business phone customers are close enough to a central office to use DSL. It is estimated that 60 to 70 percent of customers are within range.


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