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Posted in Online Savvy | November 2014

Online news: staying connected

staying connected
We rely on the internet more than ever these days. Between desktop computers at work and at home, and laptops, tablets and smartphones that travel with us, it sometimes seems like we’re on the internet for work and play almost all the time. That’s why it’s important to know which kind of internet connection is right for you, and that starts with understanding the differences between the kinds of internet connections available.

Comcast has some simple definitions to help clear up the connectivity confusion:

  • Wireless. Instead of physical telephone or cable networks, wireless networks use radio frequency bands. The advantage here is that the internet is “always on” and can be accessed from any location that falls within your provider’s coverage.
  • Dial-up. An older, less popular option, dial-up requires you to link your phone directly to a computer in order to access the internet. Also called an “analog connection”, using dial-up means you can’t use your telephone while you are using the internet.
  • DSL. DSL, which stands for Digital Subscriber Line, is similar to Dial-up in that it uses existing 2-wire copper telephone lines, but differs in that you are still able to use your telephone to make and receive calls while surfing the internet.
  • Cable. Cable allows users to access the internet over cable TV lines using a cable modem. Cable offers very fast access to the internet.
  • Satellite. Similar to wireless, a satellite connection uses a modem and is useful in areas where DSL or cable connections are not available. However, it does tend to be slightly slower than cable and DSL.

The kind of internet connection you choose should be based on your usage, both the amount and type. If you’re an occasional user then dial-up is probably fine—and makes sense because it is a more economical option. But if you need access to the internet more frequently, especially if you have more than one computer user in your home, one of the other options probably makes sense for you.

Speed is something else to consider. It can influence the quality of your online experience, based on the kind of activities you use the internet for (emailing, browsing web pages, online gaming and watching videos, for example). When you’re making your connection decision, tell your provider what you will be using the internet for so they can help you make the best choice for your needs and budget.

For example, according to Yahoo , if just one person will be using the internet connection at a time, download speeds of 1-4 Mbps (megabits per second) should be perfectly fine. However, if you have a number of people in your home using the internet almost all the time (teenagers, anyone?), then a connection with download speeds of 15-50Mbps is probably a better option for you. Multiple users will be able to view movies, share files and play games online all at the same time without noticing any delays.

Data usage is something else to consider. Like speed, the amount of data you need in your data plan is dependent upon what you need or want to do online. Bell Mobility has an online data calculator that can help you determine roughly how much data you would use in an average month. With that number, your provider can help you figure out what kind of data plan is best for your needs. About Technology also has some good tips for estimating data usage.

The key is being savvy when you choose your connection, speed and plan. Don’t be fooled into purchasing more than you’ll actually need or use. Think carefully about what you use the internet for, and how often you use it, and make sure your plan is appropriate for you and your family.

For more information on staying connected, visit About Technology.

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