December 21, 2011, 4:10 PM — It may seem as if all Internet connections are the same, but some differences--beyond price--exist between Internet service providers, and between types of connections that a single ISP offers. This guide is designed to help you choose the ISP and the connection that best suit your small or midsize business or organization.
Internet Connection Types
When shopping for Internet access, you'll probably encounter several marketing terms frequently. Broadband and high-speed are used to describe pretty much any type of Internet connection that provides bandwidth speeds faster than traditional dial-up access--and nearly all connections offered today qualify as faster than dial-up. Wideband, a relatively new term, refers to connection types that provide throughput at levels approaching or exceeding 50 mbps.
Here are the three most common connection types you're likely to see when shopping for an ISP.
DSL: This is generally the cheapest connection type, with business-class prices ranging from $30 to $90 per month. Though DSL uses traditional telephone lines, you can carry on voice calls and transfer data simultaneously. DSL performance depends on how far your location is from the ISP's exchange, but speeds may reach 15 mbps for downloads and 1 mbps for uploads, which can support a dozen typical users simultaneously or a point-of-sale system.
Cable: This is one of the most popular connection types. Monthly prices for cable range from $60 to over $300. The technology works over standard television cable lines, but it permits concurrent TV viewing and even digital phone use. ISPs may offer cable speeds of 50 to 100 mbps for downloads and 2 to 10 mbps for uploads--enough for a few dozen simultaneous users. Cable connections share bandwidth among other users in the vicinity, so speeds may be slower during peak (work) hours.
Fiber: This newer connection type offers superior performance. Telecommunication companies have been using fiber-optic lines in their backbone infrastructure for some time now, and in the past few years they have extended the fiber connections closer to end-users. Some companies run fiber-optic cabling to a neighborhood distribution point, as is the case with AT&T U-verse, and then make the connection to individual buildings via existing copper lines. Others, like Verizon FiOS, are installing fiber connections all the way to their customers. Fiber-optic connections permit download speeds of 15 to 150 mbps and upload speeds of 5 to 35 mbps. Monthly pricing ranges from $70 to $200. Since fiber provides such high bandwidth, it can easily provide TV, phone, and Internet service for 24 simultaneous users.