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Types of Internet Access

There are several different types of Internet access available. Each of them have various different advantages and disadvantages.  Not all of them are available in all areas, so their availability will vary between locations. 

The list below was created to be a reference for the different types of Internet access. It provides a brief summary of each technology, along with its PROs and CONs:

  • Dial-up: One of the oldest forms of Internet access, and is mostly used in areas that don't offer any other connection types. The maximum connection speed of this service is 56Kbps (which is only a theoretical). Dial-up has been slowly losing market share for years to faster technologies.
    • Pros: Inexpensive, and available more places then almost any other type of Internet access. All you need is a phone, modem, and an ISP account.
    • Cons: Very slow and unreliable when compared to other 'always on' Internet connections.
  • ISDN: One of the oldest form of high-speed Internet access, has a maximum bandwidth throughput of about 128Kbps. It is still available in some areas.
    • Pros: Its twice as fast as dial-up.
    • Cons: Limited availability, and speed.
  • Cable/DSL: Are the most popular forms of high-speed 'always on' Internet access available. It is available in several different speeds. These technologies are widely available, and the coverage is constantly being expanded. Although, its not available in all areas, contact your phone/cable provider to check if service is obtainable in your area.
    • Pros: Fast connections, and different download speeds are available for different fees.
    • Cons: Generally requires you to get some form of extra cable/phone service when you sign up for it.
  • Cellular: Cellular providers offer high-speed Internet access using 3G and 4G technologies. The speeds will vary greatly from location-to-location, and provider-to-provider. Its a great option to have if you're on the road in the middle of nowhere and need Internet access.  Notes: Some laptops and tablets have a built-in ExpressCard or other type of slot for a cellular Internet modem. This type of service requires a cellular account, which generally comes with a bandwidth cap.
    • Pros: Its available anywhere you can get a cellular signal for that provider.
    • Cons: Can be expensive, and speeds can be limited.
  • Wireless: This technology (e.g. WiMAX) is available in some metropolitan and rural areas. It offers an alternative to cable, DSL or dial-up.
    • Pros: Fast connections, and different download speeds are available.
    • Cons: Coverage is limited. Prices and speeds will also vary widely between ISPs.
  • Satellite: For people who want high-speed Internet access, this can be the only option available. This service is available just about anywhere you have unobstructed line-sight access to the satellite.
    • Pros: Available almost anywhere, and different download speeds available.
    • Cons: All satellite connections are high latency, which means the first few seconds of the connection are slow. This is because of physics and not technology, energy can only travel at the speed of light. The equipment can also be expensive.
  • FiOS (Fiber Optic Services): One of the fastest Internet connections available for the home or small office.  Instead of using copper wires like cable or DSL, it uses fiber optics.
    • Pros: One of the fastest ways to connect to the Internet.
    • Cons: Limited availability depending on where you live.
  • Dedicated Circuit: This option is mainly used by most medium and large size businesses or other types of organization. The speeds that are available are amazing, but the prices that you pay for this service and the equipment are equally amazing. For more information contact your phone company or ISP.
    • Pros: Just about any speed is available to you, with very reliable access.
    • Cons: Very expensive, and requires equally expensive equipment.
  • All high-speed ISPs require some type of proprietary networking equipment to use their service. Some ISPs will give you the equipment as part of the service and others will rent it to you.
  • All the speeds listed in the article reference the download speeds and not the upload speeds. Upload transmission rates are generally a fraction of the download speed. Contact the ISP for more information.
  • There are several types of DSL (such as ADSL, HDSL, IDSL, VDSL, and SDSL), each of these types of DSL technologies are designed to meet different needs of the ISP who is providing it.