Dial-Up used to be the primary source for Internet access; tying up the phone line by dialing an access number, producing a horrendous screeching sound while making a connection that sounded like a laptop computer trying to pass a kidney stone. Dial-Up is still available today, but is considered slower and cheaper compared to the other options.
The market for ISPs is very competitive, leading to lower prices and faster download speeds. Fortunately there are better options than Dial-Up, which now include DSL, Cable or Satellite.
SEE ALSO: DSL Internet
A Digital Subscriber Line (DSL) uses your phone line to connect to the Internet. Its a more economical solution than Cable, especially if your Internet needs are not too demanding and can use a lower-tiered subscription.
The downside is youll need to be within a couple miles of the phone company, because the signal uses the copper phone lines, which means speed and quality decrease over distance, with significant drops around 7,000 feet. While speed is not as fast as Cable, DSL has become a very popular option because it meets the needs of many customers and is reasonably priced.
Popular DSL providers included AT&T and Verizon.
Cable Internet is comparable to DSL in terms of speed and cost, which is why the majority of customers choose one of these two options. Cable Internet is available wherever you can get digital a TV signal, because it uses the coaxial cable that connects to your TV.
Companies will typically bundle TV and Internet service together since it comes through the same infrastructure. The cost of Cable is more than DSL, but it provides faster speeds and a better signal.
The only problem is the signal is shared with other people in your area, meaning the provider can temporarily throttle or slow down your signal, in order to guarantee service to everybody during peak demand.
Popular Cable Internet providers include Time Warner, Comcast and Cox.
Satellite Internet providers are the most recent addition to the choice of ISPs. In order to get a signal, you need a satellite dish attached to your roof or side of the wall, with a clear line of sight to the signal.
The drawback to this kind of provider is that severe weather can affect the connection, including the many customers that live in a rural area and are unable to get a DSL or Cable provider. Download speed is better than Dial-Up, but not quite as good as DSL and Cable, typically between 1-5 Mbps.
Popular Satellite providers include HughesNet, Dish Network and SkyWay.
SEE ALSO: HughesNet Satellite Internet
Defining Your Internet Needs
Ultimately, which service you should get depends on your needs and where you live. What do you use the Internet for? How much downloading, gaming and media streaming do you do?
In some areas your only option might be Cable, because Satellite and DSL are unavailable. Fortunately we no longer live in a world where Dial-Up is the only option, and choices include faster speeds at a reasonable price.