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Internet modems

Broadband Cable Modem Internet Basics

So, you’re thinking about switching from your painfully slow dial-up Internet service to a speedy cable modem broadband internet connection? We’ll help get you started with a quick overview of cable Internet services.

To learn even more about the basics of a cable modem broadband connection and why you’ll benefit.

The Broadband Cable Modem Speed Situation

To get going, it’s important to address the issue of cable modem access speeds, which is probably why you’re interested in broadband service in the first place.

Many cable companies and Internet service providers argue that cable modems are as much as 100 times faster than a dial-up Internet connection, running at an ultra-fast speed of 5 million bits per second (mbps). In theory, it’s possible. But a more realistic speed is 1 mbps, or about 20 times faster than a typical 56,000-bits-per-second (kbps)dial-up connection.

Still, that’s quite a leap in performance, an upgrade well worth the investment. Web pages that can take minutes to paint with a dial-up connection will pop up instantly with a cable modem. If you frequently download large files, such as video and audio clips or software, a cable modem will make life much easier. Because cable modems are always on — that is, constantly connected to the Internet — there’s no need to dial in to an Internet service provider (ISP). Simply click on your browser and you’re on the Internet. No more waiting, no more busy signals.

Broadband Cable Modem Internet Access

Broadband Cable modem internet subscribers are typically charged for service on their cable bill, rather than paying the ISP directly. The service is usually marketed under names like Road Runner, but the cable company and ISP have distinct responsibilities.

Your local cable company is responsible for installing the cable modem and managing the quality of your service over the local cable network. At the cable company’s main network office — commonly called the “headend” — you’re connected to the cable ISP’s national backbone. It, in turn, is plugged into the Internet. The ISP actually provides the Internet connectivity, while your cable company will provide basic technical support. Who do you talk to when there’s a problem? Chances are that your cable company will direct you to your ISP.

Cable modem internet service is typically priced from $30 to $50 a month, which covers the cable modem rental fee; unlimited Internet access; and Internet application software, such as a Web browser and e-mail applications. Cable modem service installation fees, which usually run from $50 to $150, cover cable wiring, an Ethernet card for your computer, and software configuration.

Broadband Cable Internet Service Availability

Cable modem service availability is still relatively limited. That’s because cable companies must first upgrade their networks by installing fiber-optic lines and two-way data-transmission capabilities — a time-consuming, expensive undertaking. Today, about 44 million homes in the U.S. and Canada — 40% of those nations’ households — are equipped for service. Thousands of homes are being upgraded every day, but it will take some time before the U.S. and Canada are completely wired for broadband access.


July 2018
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