Is high speed just hype?

After many promises by many parties, high-speed Internet is going to be available in Fort Frances.
Shaw Cable has announced it will be available here as of tomorrow (Feb. 5) and already is taking orders.
Many people have asked me, however, what exactly the difference is between high-speed Internet and regular dial-up Internet access? Is it worth the additional costs? Does it make that much difference?
Let’s take a quick look at the different types of high-speed Internet connections and what “high speed” means in terms of real-world usage.
•What exactly is “high speed?”
“High speed Internet,” also referred to as “broadband,” generally describes any Internet connection that is faster than a dial-up connection through a modem.
Modems connect at 56 kilobits per second, or 56Kbps. While many refer to this type of connection as a “56K” connection, it’s not entirely accurate.
Consider this example. If I send a picture of my two kids to their grandfather, that picture usually will be 60KB to 80KB in size. If my modem was really a “56KB” modem, it only would take a second or two to send the picture.
As anyone on a dial-up connection knows, it takes longer than that.
The reason is that the modem is 56 kiloBITs while the picture is 60-80 kiloBYTEs in size. There are 1,024 kilobits in a kiloBYTE, so you can see we’re actually talking about two very different things.
The same thing happens with high-speed Internet connections. Companies that offer broadband will advertise an “800Kb” or 1Mb (Megabit) connection, which sounds really fast.
Don’t get me wrong—that’s still a great speed increase from dial-up. However, an 800Kb connection really is only going to connect at between 70 and 80 kiloBYTES—which means that photo I was sending to grandpa would only take a second or two to send.
•What kind do I use?
When most Internet users talk about high-speed Internet, it’s one of three technologies being referred to: cable, DSL, or satellite.
Cable access—usually offered through the cable company—uses the existing cable lines in your house and beyond to allow you to connect the Internet. It requires a cable modem that hooks up to your computer.
There are only two drawbacks to cable. First, it’s a shared connection, meaning you share the “pipeline” with your neighbours. While this doesn’t mean your neighbours will know what you’re doing online, it does mean that, the more people using the connection, the slower it can get.
Cable connections usually cost from $35-$70 a month.
DSL, or “digital subscriber line,” is a special telephone line that also provides high-speed Internet access. Normally provided through the telephone company, DSL connections also require a modem between your computer and the telephone line.
DSL connections generally have a lower maximum connection than a cable connection, but it’s a dedicated connection—you don’t share the connection with your neighbour.
DSL usually costs from $30-$70 a month, similar to cable. It isn’t currently available in Rainy River District.
Satellite is an alternative for those who live in truly rural areas (yes, in this case, that includes those of us who live in Emo). Two-way satellite systems use geosynchronous satellites to allow you to connect to the Internet, and can be as fast downloading files as either cable or DSL.
The great thing about a satellite connection is that they’ll work anywhere with a good southern line-of-sight, and speeds are comparable to DSL or cable.
The downside of satellite connections is that the hardware—a separate dish and receiver—is expensive, and monthly fees are between $70-$100 a month.
•How fast is high-speed?
If you’re used to a regular dial-up connection, you will be amazed by the speed of a broadband connection. Movie trailers or other large files that took hours to download before take just minutes.
As a comparison, if a file takes one hour to download over a standard 56K modem, it would take between three and 10 minutes over a high-speed connection.
As well, most broadband connections are “always-on” connections, so you can access the Internet instantly whenever you want—no more busy signals or squealing modems.
Broadband lets you use the Internet much more efficiently—and at a reasonable cost. Once you’ve had high-speed, you’ll wonder how you survived all this time using that poor, outdated modem.

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