How do I connect to the Internet from home?


Bandwidth Considerations:

Conceptually, bandwidth has little to do with width and everything to do with speed. Computers connected to the Internet have this connection through a series of wire and servers. The speed at which data is transmitted over this hardware is termed "bandwidth" and is quantified in bits per second (bps). The faster the data transfer, the higher the bandwidth . So, having a high bandwidth connection allows you to transfer data quickly and access web pages without delay. Low bandwidth connections make downloading files a painful experience.

There are a number of different Internet connectivity services available today, ranging from low-cost analog dial-up service to superfast T3 and ATM service.

Connectivity Services:

Analog Dial-Up Service - The most common type of Internet connection is the dial up modem connection. Most newer modems deliver speeds of up to 56Kbps (56000 bits of information per second). While this might sound fast, 56Kbps is not fast enough for videoconferencing, multimedia applications, large file transfers, etc. While this is fine for the casual user, most will typically want higher speed connectivity.

Cable Modems - cable modems offer high speed Internet connectivity. Cable modems operate somewhat differently than conventional modems. Whereas a conventional modem is wired to a dedicated circuit which runs from your location to the phone company, a cable modem uses the cable TV company's system as a shared data network (sort of like an intercom system). All of the devices connected to the network can talk to and listen to each other. Cable TV systems are designed to deliver a lot of information (moving pictures and audio) from the headend (central distribution point) to users (television sets). One problem with cable modems is variability in speed. If many users are using the network simultaneously, your connection speed may decrease. On average, cable modems deliver between 300Kbps to 1.5Mbps. Cable modems are available in almost every area of Chapel Hill.

ADSL/DSL Service - ADSL/DSL provides connection speeds up to several megabits (faster than T1) over ordinary telephone wiring. ADSL is an adaptive service, meaning it adapts to the conditions on the telephone line. If you have a clear phone line, the ADSL modem will provide speeds comparable to T1 or faster. ADSL/DSL is available in most areas of Chapel Hill.

Dedicated ISDN Service -ISDN lines connect to the Internet at speeds up to 128Kbps, about four times faster than standard analog modems on average. Most telephone companies charge per minute tolls for local ISDN calls, this adds up if a connection is on 24 hours a day. A typical monthly phone bill for this type of service will be between $200 to $800. There are also shared ISDN lines, which cost less, but mean you have to share access with other users. This can mean a dramatic decrease in speed.