How to choose broadband Internet…
Broadband enables you to download more at once, and faster—putting the Internet's vast knowledge and entertainment value to your full use! Broadband is often called "high-speed" Internet, as compared to traditional slow 'dial-up' access using a modem and telephone connection (or GPRS on your cellphone).
High speed reliable connections that give you more 'bandwidth' (see measuring speed below) are widely available from many providers, for both fixed and mobile use via wired or wireless connections, and requiring just a small modem/router device in your home. You can connect your computer either wirelessly via WiFi or a network cable.
Available in most metros and populated rural areas from many providers over your existing telephone line. Bandwidth varies greatly both in cost and choice of plans—and reduces further from the telephone exchange. Providers include: AT&T U-verse, Verizon High Speed Internet, and Qwest.
Available in many towns, usually from just a single regional provider, and requiring a new line into your home. Often offers more bandwidth than DSL. Providers include: Comcast, Time Warner and Cablevision.
Available only in some major metros (e.g. NYC) and a few towns this is the highest performance type of connection, and requiring a new line into your home. Providers include: Verizon FiOS.
Available everywhere but requires a dish (usually small) to be installed. It has very high 'latency' (see measuring speed below), lower bandwidth than wired services, and can be affected by heavy rain. Providers include: WildBlue and HughesNet.
This may be an alternative if you are unable to get a fixed connection to your home, or have limited choice. There are serveral technologies, see our wireless Internet page.
Providers may bundle internet, telephone and TV services together (known as 'triple-play'), or may offer internet access alone allowing you to keep your existing TV and telephone services.
With a broadband connection you can access telephone services through cheaper internet-telephone (VOIP) providers like Skype instead of your expensive traditional provider, whilst also benefitting from video-calling. You may use either your computer or a dedicated handset for this.
Internet access is offered as either unlimited or download-restricted plans, if you wish to watch or download video (excluding bundled TV plans on dedicated channels) you should ensure you choose an unlimited plan. Web pages use very little bandwidth, video uses a lot, with audio (music and telephone) in-between.
- Bandwidth—this can be equated with the width of a pipe. A broadband 'pipe' has a much larger 'diameter' and thus more capacity. The larger the bandwidth the faster a large file can download. Transmission capacity is measured in kilobits/megabits per second (Kbps/Mbps), not to be confused with disk storage (for files) which is measured in kilobytes/megabytes (KB/MB).
- Latency—this can be equated with the length of a pipe. A shorter pipe means the time taken for communication along the connection is less, and thus makes a short low-latency connection snappier and more responsive. It is measured in milliseconds and is therefore generally only important and noticable for live video and audio conversations, or live gaming. Latency is often compared with 'ping' times between you and a specific server. Wireless connections tend to have higher latency.