There are numerous resources and opportunities for residents and businesses to obtain knowledge and competency in today's use of computer and broadband applications. Here you can find common information on computers, broadband, and the common questions asked by users. In addition, resources for computer literacy training can be found here.
Internet Service Basics and Definitions
What Is Broadband?
Broadband or high-speed Internet access allows users to access the Internet and Internet-related services at significantly higher speeds than those available through “dial-up” Internet access services. Broadband speeds vary significantly depending on the particular type and level of service ordered and may range from as low as 200 kilobits per second (kbps), or 200,000 bits per second, to 30 megabits per second (Mbps), or 30,000,000 bits per second. Some recent offerings even include 50 to 100 Mbps. Broadband services for residential consumers typically provide faster downstream speeds (from the Internet to your computer) than upstream speeds (from your computer to the Internet).
How Does Broadband Work?
Broadband allows users to access information via the Internet using one of several high-speed transmission technologies. Transmission is digital, meaning that text, images, and sound are all transmitted as “bits” of data. The transmission technologies that make broadband possible move these bits much more quickly than traditional telephone or wireless connections, including traditional dial-up Internet access connections.Once you have a broadband connection to your home or business, devices such as computers can be attached to this broadband connection by existing electrical or telephone wiring, coaxial cable or wireless devices.
What Are The Advantages of Broadband?
Broadband allows you to take advantage of new services not available or not convenient to use with a dial-up Internet connection. One such service is Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), an alternative to traditional voice telephone service that may be less costly for you depending on your calling patterns.
Some VoIP services only allow you to call other people using the same service, but others allow you to call anyone who has a telephone number – including local, long distance, mobile and international numbers.
Broadband makes “telemedicine” possible: patients in rural areas can confer online with medical specialists in more urban areas and share information and test results very quickly.
Broadband helps you efficiently access and use many reference and cultural resources, such as library and museum data bases and collections. You also need broadband to best take advantage of many distance learning opportunities, like online college or university courses, and continuing or senior education programs. Broadband is an important tool for expanding educational and economic opportunities for consumers in remote locations.
In addition to these new services, broadband allows you to shop online and Web surf more quickly and efficiently. Downloading and viewing videos and photos on your computer are much faster and easier. With broadband you can access the Internet by turning on your computer without needing to dial up your Internet Service Provider (ISP) over a telephone line, which permits you to use the Internet without tying up your telephone line. As of December 2010, nearly 170 million broadband connections were deployed in the United States.
What Types of Broadband Are Available?
Broadband can be provided over different platforms:
• Digital Subscriber Line (DSL);
• Cable Modem;
• Wireless; and
The broadband technology you choose will depend on a number of factors. These include how broadband Internet access is packaged with other services (like voice telephone and home entertainment), price and service availability.
Digital Subscriber Line (DSL)
DSL is a wireline transmission technology that transmits data faster over traditional copper telephone lines already installed to homes and businesses. DSL-based broadband provides transmission speeds ranging from several hundred Kbps to millions of bits per second. The availability and speed of your DSL service may depend on the distance from your home or business to the closest telephone company facility.
The following are types of DSL transmission technologies:
• Asymmetrical Digital Subscriber Line (ADSL) – used primarily by residential customers, such as Internet surfers, who receive a lot of data but do not send much. ADSL typically provides faster speed in the downstream direction than the upstream direction. ADSL allows faster downstream data transmission over the same line used to provide voice service, without disrupting regular telephone calls on that line.
• Symmetrical Digital Subscriber Line (SDSL) – used typically by businesses for services such as video conferencing. Downstream and upstream traffic speeds are equal. Faster forms of SDSL, typically available to businesses, include High-data-rate Digital Subscriber Line (HDSL) and Very High-data-rate Digital Subscriber Line (VDSL).
To find out if DSL is available to your home, contact your local telephone companies or your state’s public service commission.
Cable modem service enables cable operators to provide broadband using the same coaxial cables that deliver pictures and sound to your TV set.
Most cable modems are external devices that have two connections, one to the cable wall outlet and the other to a computer. They provide transmission speeds of 1.5 Mbps or more.
You can still watch cable TV while using a cable modem service. Transmission speeds vary depending on the type of cable modem, cable network and traffic load. Speeds are comparable to or exceed typical residential DSL.
To find out if cable modem service is available to your home, contact your local cable companies, local cable franchising authority (which may be part of your municipal or county government) or your state’s public service commission
Fiber optic technology converts to light electrical signals carrying data and sends the light through transparent glass fibers about the diameter of a human hair. Fiber transmits data at speeds far exceeding current DSL or cable modem speeds, typically by tens or even hundreds of Mbps. The actual speed you experience, however, will vary depending upon a variety of factors, such as how close to your computer the service provider brings the fiber and how the service provider configures the service, including the amount of bandwidth used. The same fiber providing your broadband can also simultaneously deliver voice (VoIP) and video services, including video-on-demand.
Some network operators (mostly telephone companies) are offering fiber-based broadband in limited areas and providing bundled voice, Internet access and video services.
To find out if fiber is available to your home, contact your local telephone companies or your state’s public service commission.
Wireless fidelity (WiFi) is a “short range” technology that is often used in conjunction with a customer’s DSL or cable modem service to connect end-user devices, such as PCs, laptops and smartphones, located within the customer’s home or business to the Internet. In these cases, WiFi allows users to move WiFi-enabled devices around within their homes or businesses without installing additional inside wiring, but the actual ”connection” to the service provider is via the customer’s DSL or cable modem service. WiFi technology can also be “networked” to provide wider geographic coverage, and when configured this way, may be used by some service providers in offering broadband service. WiFi is widely available in airports, city parks, restaurants, bookstores and other public places called “hotspots,” allowing those who are away from their homes or businesses to access the Internet.
Fixed wireless technologies using longer range directional equipment can provide broadband service in remote or sparsely populated areas where other types of broadband would be too costly to provide. Speeds are generally comparable to DSL service speeds. An external antenna is usually required. With newer services now being deployed (WiMax), a small antenna located inside a home near a window is usually adequate, and higher speeds are possible.
Mobile wireless broadband services, such as 3G, are also widely available from mobile broadband service providers, including cell phone companies and others. In addition, many mobile broadband providers are now beginning to deploy technologies, such as Long Term Evolution (LTE), which promise faster upload and download speeds and wider coverage than 3G technologies, and are upgradeable to full 4G capability in the future. Accessing mobile wireless broadband services may require a special card with a built-in antenna that plugs into a user’s laptop computer. Other end-user devices, such as smart phones, already have built-in capabilities. Mobile wireless broadband services have typically provided lower speeds than either wired or fixed wireless alternatives.
To find out if wireless broadband is available to your home, contact your local wireless telephone companies or your state’s public service commission. You can also visit the following website that lists fixed-wireless Internet service providers operating in some areas of your state: www.wispdirectory.com/.
Just as satellites orbiting the earth provide necessary links for telephone and television service, they can also provide links for broadband services. Satellite broadband is another form of wireless broadband and is particularly useful for serving remote or sparsely populated areas.
Downstream and upstream speeds for satellite broadband depend on several factors, including the provider and service package purchased, the consumer’s line of sight to the orbiting satellite, and the weather. Satellite service can be disrupted in extreme weather conditions. Typically a consumer can expect to receive (download) at a speed of about 1 Mbps and send (upload) at a speed of about 200 kbps. These speeds may be slower than DSL and cable modem, but the download speed is still much faster than the download speed with dial-up Internet access. New facilities, scheduled for deployment in 2012, are expected to support consumer broadband services for several million customers at speeds up to 12 Mbps for downloads and 3 Mbps for uploads.
Obtaining satellite broadband can be more costly or more involved than obtaining DSL or cable modem. A user must have:
• a two or three foot dish or base station – the most costly item;
• a satellite Internet modem; and
• a clear line of sight to the provider’s satellite.
To find out if satellite broadband is available to your home, contact broadband satellite companies or your state’s public service commission.
Common Questions on Broadband and Internet Use?
Q: What is an ISP?
A: ISP means Internet Service Provider. These companies provide internet service
to your residence or business
Q: What is Hardware? What is Software?
A: The stuff you can see and touch is basically hardware. This means your Personal Computer, Monitor, Mouse, Keyboard, and Speakers to name a few. Software are the programs on your computer such as Microsoft XP or Microsoft Office that allow you to use the computer for functions like word processing, web browsing, and video conferencing.
Q: What will I need to connect to the internet?
A: You will need a couple things to connect to the internet from your home or business
1) ISP-You will need and Internet Service Provider (ISP) Much like a telephone or utilities, you will need to subscribe to a local ISP that offers internet
2) Hardware- For a broadband connection such as (DSL) or cable, you need a DSL or cable modem. This usually is offered for a low monthly fee or included from your ISP when you sign up for a broadband account. If you plan to set up a network in order to share Internet access with multiple computers, you'll also need a router or wireless router for laptops. For a dial-up connection, you need a dial-up modem. Many computers come with a dial-up modem already installed.