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by Sally Sclair   (©2001)   

Many people are switching from dial-up internet services to high speed direct access services such as ISDN, DSL, and cable. It has been predicted that by 2005 only 8% of internet users will be using dial-up services. The following is a brief explanation of the differences between the four types of service. Several helpful links are contained in this article.

Direct Dial-Up.  Most internet users who are reading this article are using a dial-up service. The fastest speed available for a dial-up connection is 56kbps (If your modem is less than 56k, then you're probably waiting a very long time for most web pages to load). Here's why you may want to consider switching from dial-up: (1) You don't want to tie up your phone line whenever you're on the internet; (2) You'd like your web pages to load faster, or your internet connection is often slow; (3) You'd like to be connected to the internet as soon as your computer boots up, rather than waiting while your dial-up service makes the connection.

ISDN  (Integrated Services Digital Network).  Although it's a dial-up service, at 68Kbps it's a little faster than regular dial-up. A faster 128 Kbps is available, but the monthly cost is much higher.

DSL (Digital Subscriber Line). DSL offers a direct connection to the internet and is not a dial-up system. It works through your phone line, but uses a different frequency than your phone calls so that your line is never tied up when you're on the internet. Connection speeds may vary between service providers, but are usually faster than dial-up services and ISDN. You don't have to wait to connect to the internet, as you do with dial-up. With most DSL services, you are automatically connected whenever your computer boots up. DSL services are not available everywhere, although that's quickly changing. If you're not sure if it's available where you live, then inquire with the DSL service provider of your choice. Some helpful web sites are provided at the end of this article, where you can check out the various services.

Cable Modem. This type of service connects you to the internet by linking your computer to the cable fiber-optic/coaxial network of your cable TV provider. This type of internet connection is a strong competitor of DSL services, offering comparable speeds and direct connection.  If cable TV is not available in your area, than cable modem service is not available, either.

DSL vs. Cable: Cable connections may slow down during peak periods when there are many people in your area using the internet, or as the number of cable users in your area increase. There are times, however, when DSL may slow down, too. Also, keep in mind that if you're using a cable modem, your internet connection will go out whenever your cable TV does. However, DSL may also experience some down time.You don't have to subscribe to cable TV to get cable modem service; however, if you want to have both you might want to find out whether your local cable service offers a package deal.

Other high-speed access services are Frame Relay and Fixed-Point Wireless, but these services are not commonly used at the home because of their high cost (about $250 to $800 a month, compared to an average of $40-$50 a month for ISDN, DSL and Cable).

How do you select a particular service provider?  One of the best ways to select a service is through the recommendation of a neighbor or a friend who lives nearby. When you ask your friends about their experience with ISP's (internet service providers), keep in mind that the services of any provider may vary in different neighborhoods; thus, your friend who lives on the other side of town may have a different experience as you would have in your neighborhood with the same provider. One of the reasons for this is the distance between your home and the central office providing the service. The following web sites could be useful in helping you make a choice: Check out their Reviews section; be sure to type in your zip code and hit the "enter" button on your keyboard to get reviews by people in your area who are using the various services. The site also provides other useful information. Provides a list of internet service providers in your area.

Free Emergency Dial-up Service:  Some people who use high-speed access subscribe to one of the free emergency dial-up services found on the internet. The only "catch" to using such a service is that you have to put up with their advertising banners, which isn't so bad in the event of an occasional "emergency" when your regular service goes out. Check out the following sites for further information:, offers reviews of the major free internet service providers and tips for getting the most out of them;, is an individual who offers a listing of free isp's and provides his comments on each listing.

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©2001 S. Sclair  (The article above cannot be reproduced under any circumstances without written permission from the copyright holder.)  All rights reserved
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