The why of tech


Tuesday, June 26, 2001

Four ways for you
to get to the ‘Net

The other day I overheard a conversion I've heard too many times between a customer and a computer store salesperson. I practically had to staple my mouth shut to avoid butting in.

The customer was trying to figure out which is the best way to get hooked up to the Internet, and the store clerk was giving REALLY bad information.

Here's some unbiased information that should help you make a good decision.

There are two main types of components to hook up to the Internet: The first is the physical connection and the second is the service that allows you access to the rest of the Internet.

For the physical connection, there are four primary choices: a dial-up (modem), DSL, cable modem, or wireless connection. Once you choose which method of connecting is best for you, then you pick a company to provide you with Internet services, sometimes there are many to choose from, and sometime there is only one option.

>> Dial-up is the most popular so let's start with that. Because using a modem to hook up to other computers has been around for more than 20 years, this is the most popular way of connecting. You use existing phone lines in your house or can have a dedicated phone line installed. Popular Internet service providers (ISPs) include AOL, LavaNet, Hawaii Online and MSN. Expect to pay about $20 a month.

Dial-up is the slowest and most cumbersome of the choices.

>> Cable: Roadrunner has been making great strides into Hawaii's market. Roadrunner is cable-based Internet access that is as much as 25 times faster than dialup. Its other advantage is your computer is always connected, so you never have to fiddle with hooking up.

For $40 a month, on top of fees for its cable television service, Oceanic Cable will give both Internet access and services. There is a debate over whether the cable subscribers or Oceanic owns the cable lines, but for now Oceanic is the only company in Hawaii that offers cable access. LavaNet and other independent ISPs are trying to change that.

>> A third option is DSL. Like a cable modem, DSL (digital subscriber line) is considered high-speed access and is 25 times faster than the fastest modem and your computer is always connected. In Hawaii, you have to buy your DSL connection and the Internet access from different companies. This means you have to pay more (about $80 a month) and both of the companies point the finger at each other when something goes wrong.

Because of the problematic customer service and high costs, DSL is attractive usually only to businesses that need the higher speed access. Roadrunner would be a better choice, but its rates for business accounts are dramatically higher.

>> Wireless: Finally, new companies are forming in Hawaii to offer high-speed wireless access. Similar to cell phone technology, the providers use radio frequencies to provide customers with access. While I have yet to test this service, on the Mainland wireless broadband, as it is called, is most successful in areas that do not have access to DSL or cable.

Steve Jefferson is a Honolulu-based freelance writer
and section editor for InfoWorld. He can be
reached at:

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