Joys of Broadband Access
Fulbright. That was the word I couldn't
remember. Maybe that's happened to you. I needed
that word at a particular moment, but my brain
And without thinking I went to Google and typed
in "Europe teach fellowship." Among the results was
something about Fulbright fellowships. Eureka. That
was the word. If you've had this experience, you
know what a relief it is to finally have the
missing word back in your brain.
This happens more often than I care to admit.
But now that I have DSL, it's not such a problem.
DSL is a way of connecting your computer directly
to the Internet without first having to dial up or
If I would have had to dial up the Internet to
let Google help me remember my word, I wouldn't
have bothered. But because I have DSL and am always
connected to the Internet, I often use Google for
these types of tasks.
I love DSL.
Hey, it just happened again. I couldn't'
remember what "DSL" stood for. In Google I typed in
"DSL abbreviation" and right there among the first
results was "DSL An abbreviation for Digital
And DSL is fast. Files typically download about
10 times faster.
DSL typically shares the same line that you use
for your telephone but is carried on a different
frequency than voice. You can use your telephone
and your DSL at the same time.
Many communities in eastern Iowa now have DSL
available. The cost ranges from about $35 to $70
per month. Plus, you usually have an up-front cost
for connection or to purchase a special DSL modem,
which could be around $200.
But think about it. You may already be paying
$14-20 per month for dialup Internet access. And
some people also pay for a second phone line
because they don't want their Internet surfing to
tie up their regular phone line. In this case, the
DSL doesn't really cost any more.
Companies in eastern Iowa offering DSL include
Lisco and Iowa Telecom, with prices ranging from
$35 to $40 per month. While 256 kbps is the most
common, 512 kbps is also available in the range of
$40 per month.
Larger cities such as Iowa City typically have a
wider range of choices. Qwest offers DSL in Iowa
City, for example, via such resellers as
Crossroads, which charges $38 per month for 256
You can, of course, pay more money and get much
higher speeds. But these options are mainly for
businesses. Consumers generally opt for 256 or 512.
When it comes to surfing the Internet, a faster
speed than that doesn't usually do much good
because the bottleneck is not your connection speed
but the responsiveness of the web sites you're
trying to access.
Note that even if a company in your area is
offering DSL, you still may not be able to use
their service because of your location. Factors
include how distant you are from the service
provider and whether the phone circuit you're on
will accommodate it.
DSL is actually just one form of broadband
access. "Broadband" is the generic term for
high-speed Internet connections. Other options
include access via TV cable and satellite.
Mediacom, which provides cable TV service to
eastern Iowa, is planning to offer cable access to
the Internet in the coming months. The speeds for
consumer-level access are much faster: 1.5 megabits
per second download time, which, by way of
comparison, equates to 1,500 kbps, or three times
faster than 512 kbps. The upload time is
The cost for cable Internet access from Mediacom
will be $41 per month if you already have cable TV,
plus $5 per month to rent a cable modem. If you're
not a subscriber, the cost is $56 per month,
including modem rental.
Among the vendors of satellite access in the
region is MGC Computers, which is based in
Fairfield and sells Starband service. This may be
one of the few options for those out of reach of
DSL and cable.
This two-way satellite service doesn't require a
phone line for uploading as older systems did and
offers downloads of up to 500 kbps and upload rates
in excess of 150 kbps. You can use the same
satellite for access to satellite TV. The cost for
Internet access is $70 a month, plus an up-front
fee in the area of $400.
If you don't have broadband, you will soon. And
then you, too, will easily recall words such as
© 2002 by Jim Karpen, Ph.D.