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Different Types of Internet Services and Their Uses
Some technological innovations burst on the scene, gain widespread popularity, then inexplicably wither and are relegated to the basement, then the garage and eventually, the landfill. Technological change is evolving at a breakneck pace to such an extent that some of it never even makes it onto the radar of the general public before suffering obsolescence.
Such is not the case with Internet service. True, it has changed and grown exponentially during its relatively brief existence. But for many people it has permeated their daily lives to a degree where many who recall a time before the Internet existed can’t precisely remember how they functioned without it. This same group will sometimes experience mental discomfort when confronted by an involuntary loss of Internet service.
Somewhat surprisingly, statistics that examine Internet usage by age group shows that people in the 45 – 54 age group spend the most time, almost 40 hour per month, online. This demographic contains people who have spent at least the first 20 – 25 years of their lives without the World Wide Web, e-mail, instant messaging and social networks. This group also has individuals who can be slow to adapt to change – middle agers that have decided that things were fine the way they were and that they can function just fine without Internet service.
Whether this group, people who remember times when all the world’s information was not instantly accessible, spends more time online than other age groups out of a sense of awe at the phenomenal power of the resources at their fingertips or if they merely are not as efficient in their web usage habits as younger groups, the fact that Internet service availability influences many daily decisions is inescapable.
Perhaps the number of options available for obtaining Internet service is further evidence of a vibrant entity where competition to supply the ever-growing demand offers choices designed for anyone from the casual to the rabid user.
Here’s a brief description of the types of available Internet service along with some appropriate uses for each.
Dial-Up Internet Service
This was the original and at one time, the only offering available. Early adopters can recall times when modem speed rates were measured in bauds. Dial-up eventually capped out at 56 Kbps. It was offered to home users by land line telephone companies that frequently metered usage. Many users resorted to a second land line in order to accommodate file download times that were in the area of 40 minutes for a four-minute song while still permit them to have access to a line for voice calls.
Since dial-up Internet service came from land line telephone service providers, it would seem somewhat contradictory to use dial-up instead of DSL, but DSL is not an option in some remote rural areas. In any event, there are plenty of users that prefer having the choice of spending the difference between the cost of dial-up and DSL on something else, so dial-up remains a viable alternative for these users. For the 10% of the market that selects this option, it need not cost more than five dollars per month for unlimited access.
Dial-up service is totally adequate for e-mail as long as large file attachments are not necessary. It is also acceptable for light web surfing, particularly for those users who recall times of library trips or waiting for postal service delivery of information. Waiting a couple of minutes compared to a couple of days is no hardship for this group.
Online banking and bill payment is also do-able. Most bank sites are not so bandwidth intensive that dial-up users accustomed to trips to the bank will fail to appreciate the convenience of 24 hour banking.
Dial-up can be used to download music for storage with only a minor adaptation that might entail saving large music downloads for times when telephone calls are not expected and the user can leave the computer unattended.
Software downloads of simple applications are feasible with dial-up. For those of us who remember feeding the 5 ¼ and 3 ½ inch floppy disks to their computer, with what today seems like almost comical data limits and painfully slow transfer rates, dial-up software downloads represented a major leap forward.
Broadband Internet Service
Broadband Internet services represent the current state-of-the-art. We will look at the three main varieties: hard-wired broadband, mobile broadband and satellite broadband.
Hard-Wired Broadband Internet
DSL was the first successor to dial-up Internet service. Initial offerings of up to 1.5 MB per second download speeds represented such a jump in capability that DSL providers were completely unprepared for the demand. An early limitation requiring close user proximity to DSL capable telephone equipment left millions of willing customers beyond the DSL service area. That limitation began disappearing as it became apparent to land line copper wire telephone providers that building out DSL networks would enhance, rather than negatively impact their revenues. Speeds have also increased to the point where seven, 12 and 20 MB per second speeds are not uncommon and 40 MB per second and beyond is on the horizon.
A very appealing benefit to DSL, especially for dedicated Internet users upgrading from dial-up, is that simultaneous voice calls and Internet connectivity is possible, eliminating the cost of a second Internet dedicated line.
Demand for DSL is still so robust that providers are having trouble expanding supply sufficiently, so much so that some providers have either been compelled to enact, or are seriously considering usage caps.
DSL is to dial-up as the Wright Brothers Kitty Hawk flying machine is to the space shuttle.
The application that seems to hold the most potential is streaming video. When the 45-54 age group is not using the Internet for purposes of productivity or information gathering, they like video entertainment. DSL easily facilitates this use to the degree that many users feel comfortable disconnecting from cable TV providers.
All the uses that are possible with dial-up are also present along with some others.
Communications is one of these. It is possible, using any of the variety of services to make free and extremely low cost voice and video calls all over the world.
Sharing photographs is also a popular use. Even with entry-level DSL, downloading pictures adequate for viewing on a computer monitor is practically instantaneous.
The streaming of music has had a profound effect on how music is consumed. The music compact disc is on its last legs, although Internet music streaming advocates can claim that more people are exposed to more artists than would otherwise be possible and may actually spur sales of music that might otherwise never be heard.
Hard on the heels of DSL was coaxial cable hard-wired Internet service. The competition between the two, in fact, has probably done more to encourage innovation and improvement since television came along and fundamentally change the radio landscape.
The competition between DSL and cable providers seems like a rare example where government involvement was beneficial. Allowing cable companies to bundle voice calling with their content offerings and Internet service, while permitting DSL companies to offer television content, has resulted in consumer choice at competitive prices.
Coaxial cable Internet service is very comparable to DSL, so the same uses are typical. Cable may in some cases be available where DSL is not. Users who have the choice of either can find themselves with the delicious option of switching between providers when the timing is opportune.
Mobile Broadband Internet
This is the latest type of Internet service. It has been around for a while, but really came of age with the arrival of the smart phone.
At present, it is possible to completely abandon hard-wired Internet service and have Internet access anywhere Wi-Fi and cell phone networks have coverage.
3G speeds are practically glacial compared to most hard-wired services, but in fairness, their speeds are extraordinary compared to the best dial-up and some of the early DSL and cable offerings. 4G networks, when their full capabilities are achieved, will provide speeds comparable and in some cases superior to hard-wired Internet.
All the tasks that currently mandate being tethered to a computer will be unleashed.
Smart phones and high-speed USB modem devices will perform all the functions that earlier generations of Internet service can perform, with the added element of combining those functions with mobility.
Locating businesses, checking store inventories, getting driving directions on the go, using hand held phones as digital wallets for purchases and staying in continuous contact with business associates, family and friends will become second nature.
Streaming video while connecting to wide screen TVs is doubtless not far off from becoming commonplace.
Satellite Internet is the option for anyone who requires high-speed Internet access but lives in areas too remote for any other type of service. This is at once its greatest negative, while at the same time being its greatest asset. The ability to communicate with and supply information to people who would otherwise be left out in the cold makes satellite Internet limitations acceptable.
It can be expensive compared to other Internet service, but it would seem that anyone who has a need for high-speed Internet should be willing to accept this reality as a consequence of making the choice to live at a distance from a population center.
It costs a lot of money to launch satellites and that cost must be passed along to the user.
Available bandwidth is limited to the degree that most satellite Internet packages have download and upload data limits.
Because satellites are located in geosynchronous orbit 23,000 miles above the earth, there is a signal delay, called latency, that makes satellite Internet service unacceptable for online gaming or financial transactions that rely on instantaneous communication. Adverse weather conditions can also impair satellite Internet.
Other than those limitations, satellite Internet service will permit the same uses as any other type.
It appears that the future existence of Internet service is secure.
The profound influence it has exerted on the lives of people throughout the world would seem to guarantee that Internet service will be around, at least for the foreseeable future, and in all probability until such time as something unimaginably better evolves.