International Research Center QUICK NAVIGATOR

| IRC NEWS | PR 100099 |
Connecting to the Internet - Wrap Up
(91k PDF file)
This article originally appeared in Bibliodata's The Cyberskeptic's Guide to Internet Research (October 1999) and is reprinted here with permission from BiblioData (781) 444-1154
Connecting to the Internet - Wrap Up
By Mark Goldstein

The CyberSkeptic's Guide has spent the last few issues featuring the various technology solutions for fast Web access. Here we'll summarize and compare your options (or lack of them). Unfortunately, only a fraction of the population can get one or more of them today, aside from satellite, which has ubiquitous coverage. Increasing deregulation of telecommunications markets and growing competitive pressures are leading to the urge to converge voice, video and data services onto a single pipe or delivery medium. Two factors are driving an accelerated deployment and availability of these services. They are the massive investment in long-haul fiber optic back-bones and consumers' demand for better Internet performance.

Getting Up to Speed
CNET: Internet: Access & Bandwidth- (
links to related articles on CNET and a wealth of external resource sites. Well-organized and presented.

Network Computing's Technology Center- ( divided into 9 main areas with Product Testing articles, How-To and Tutorials, Industry Issue analyses, and Opinion pieces.

International Engineering Consortium (IEC) Web ProForum Tutorials- ( with many dozens of related topics covered in both HTML and sometimes PDF format. They include self-tests, glossaries and misc. resources. Individual tutorials are sponsored by industry companies but not specific to their product-offerings.

TechGuides- ( has over 70 Technology Guides free and online, as well as topical forums one can participate in. Again, individual guides are sponsored by industry companies but not geared towards their specific products.

ComputerWorld Technology QuickStudy- ( provides access to the magazine's archive of weekly short tutorials on dozens of computer and telecommunications technologies. Complemented by Business QuickStudy ( about financial and business concepts and terms.

Your Mileage May Vary
    It does seem that geography is destiny as the major metropolitan areas have more options and get the cool, new stuff sooner. The local phone companies and their competitors are bound to that minuscule twisted-pair of copper wire to reach you. However, the poorly managed Integrated Services Digital Network (ISDN) rollout is giving way to many flavors of Digital Subscriber Line (xDSL). Cable companies have upgraded their Hybrid Fiber Coax (HFC) metropolitan networks and brought fiber right to your neighborhood (or will soon!). Their cable modems are delivering up to 10Mbps data downloads and being quickly followed by the introduction of digital television and voice dialtone services as well.

    Wireless options abound, from slow cellular and the newer Personal Communication Systems (PCS) networks (that will evolve to higher-speed third-generation mobile data systems) to fixed wireless Internet access from single towers. And new constellations of low earth orbit (LEO) satellites cover the entire world without regard to geography with broadband projects on the drawing board.

But What Do You Really Need?
    Most Internet users download much more than they upload and the mixed speeds of most services match the average surfing style quite well. Some applications such as video-conferencing or streaming media may require better upstream rates. If you are hosting your own Web server at a location, the total traffic load must be estimated and appropriate dedicated bandwidth contracted for. A summary of today's access alternatives follows.

    Rest assured that if the bandwidth you need doesn't reach your location today, a bevy of competitive providers and technologies are working their ways through the trenches and across the skies to get it to you.

    Mark Goldstein is president of International Research Center ( Email him at

Comparing Internet Connections

Dial-up Modem ISDN xDSL Cable Modem Terrestrial Wireless Satellite Wireless
Downstream Data Rate 53 Kbps 128 Kbps 256 Kbps - 7 Mbps 400 Kbps- 3 Mbps 9.6 Kbps- 1 Mbps 33.6 Kbps- 400 Kbps
Upstream Data Rate 33.6 Kbps 128 Kbps 64 Kbps - 1 Mbps 128 Kbps - 3 Mbps 33.6 Kbps via dial-up to 256 Kbps wireless 33.6 Kbps via dial-up; faster wireless later
Initial Cost <$50 $150-$300 $125-$300 $50-$300 $150-$250 $200-$400
Monthly Cost $0-$20 $40-$120 $40-$200 $40-$60 $45-$65 $30-$130
Pros Easy & cheap. Widely Available First digital service. Broad availability Low cost potential. Shares phone line wiht voice. Switched circuit dedicates connection. Developing GLite standard to accelerate 1 Mbps rate availability. Low Cost potential. Accelerating urban deployment. DOCSIS standard released. Single antenna for large area. Quick to deplot with great regional coverage. Works anywhere. Additional systems to be launched. higher data rates pending.
Cons Rates limited by phone quality. Ties up a phone line. Setup can be problematic. Availability limited by distance from telco office. Standardization pending. Availability limited by network upgrades & distance from telco office. Limited availability to business. HFC upgrades still in progress. Limited upstream data rates with telco return. Only available in some markets. Line of sight only. Expensive interface hardware and service costs. No broadband until 2002.