by North Rittner
Hello friends, and welcome back to Carbon Valley Tech-Talks. In this issue, we will be discussing Internet Service Providers, or ISPs, and how to select the right provider and plan for your needs. To do this, we need to identify a few terms that you’ll need to understand. Then, we will need to consider what your current day-to-day internet usage looks like. Once we’ve done that, I feel confident that you’ll be able to seek out and find the internet service that best meets your needs.
Let’s get started.
First things first, let’s talk about bandwidth. Think of internet speed like a hose that can carry water. The bigger the hose, the more water can travel through that hose. That is the basic concept of bandwidth. The higher the Mbps (Megabits per second), the higher the bandwidth (the bigger the hose.) Think of it this way: a 10 Mbps connection is the equivalent of a coffee stirrer straw. Not much can pass through it, and what does, passes slowly. Now think about a 1000 Mbps connection (also known as gig speed internet) using the straw/hose comparison. A 1000 Mbps connection would be the equivalent of a firehose mounted to a high-pressure fire hydrant. You get the picture?
Now that we understand bandwidth, let’s dive into ISPs and what they can provide. The highest-rated ISP in the nation right now is Xfinity. I was not paid to say this… I don’t particularly like their phone customer service, but they are undeniably the fastest and most stable ISP in the Carbon Valley area. A distant second would be Century Link. For now, we are only going to reference ISPs in terms of residential internet. Know that other ISPs are available in the Carbon Valley area, but Xfinity and Century link are the two heavy hitters that can deliver the most for your money.
We can now talk about TYPES of internet services available. There are five types that most residents of Carbon Valley will encounter. The most common is the DSL or digital subscriber line, followed by cable modem, fiber optic, satellite, and wireless. Most of us will have one of the first three types. The further out into rural areas you go, you will be limited to satellite service only. All these types fall into the category of broadband connections. Broadband simply means high-speed internet that is always on. Here’s how each of them performs:
DSL – Speeds can range from a couple hundred Mbps to multi Gbps (Gigabits per second.) It is mostly delivered through copper telephone lines.
Cable Modem – Delivered through coaxial cable that can deliver internet, TV, and phone on one line. Speeds range from 25 Mbps to Gig-speed plus. (1000 Mbps +)
Fiber – Delivered through glass tubes called Fiber Optic lines. Signals move at the speed of light, making them incredibly fast. Fiber far exceeds speeds of DSL and Cable Modem. The downside is you must live near an urban area where a fiber-optic network is already in place.
Wireless – Connects a home or business to broadband using a radio link. Speeds are comparable to DSL and Cable Modem but can be susceptible to radio interference. It is not widely used in residential scenarios. You’ll find these deployments in rural or mountainous areas where cable or fiber lines are not present.
Satellite – This broadband service is the most versatile but the slowest of the pack. Satellite internet is deployed in rural and mountainous areas where service lines are not easy to dig. They are also used on mobile structures so folks living an RV lifestyle can still stay connected while on the move.
Now that you know what is available to you let’s look at what speed your connected lifestyle will require. To determine the best speed for your home, ask yourself the following questions:
1 – How many users live in the home?
2 – How many connected devices do I have?
3 – What type of day-to-day usage will I need? (Anyone work or learn from home?)
4 – How many people will be streaming content at the same time? (Any online gamers?)
For one to two casual internet users, you would do fine with 30 to 50 Mbps.
For two or more users that stream Netflix and work from home daily: 50 Mbps will serve you well.
For those families with lots of devices connected and multiple gamers in the home consuming large amounts of bandwidth daily: anything less than 100 Mbps will throw your household into upheaval.
To discover all ISPs in Carbon Valley and get an idea of what bandwidth package you should purchase, this is a great resource that is completely independent: https://highspeedinternet.com
So, there are the basics of choosing an internet provider, what to look for, and how to gauge what you need to purchase to keep your home happily humming along in this new hyper-connected world we live in.
One last tip before I go: it’s always a good idea to test your network speed on a regular basis. Make sure you are receiving what you are paying for! The simplest way to run a speed test to check your bandwidth is to go to www.speedtest.net. It’s as easy as hitting the big GO button in the middle of the screen. If your speed is not what you are paying for, you may want to call your ISP and have them fix it.
Until next time my friends… stay connected and stay healthy!
North Rittner lives in Firestone with his wife and is the Information Security Engineer at Boulder Community Hospital. With over 10 years of professional I.T. experience , he welcomes your technology questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.