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Know your Internet Service Profile to Find your Internet Service Provider

As a consumer looking for Internet service in today's marketplace, you might wonder where to begin. The answer is to begin with yourself.

When it comes to Internet service, one-size-fits-all just doesn't apply. Customers have unique needs and circumstances that affect their experience every time they launch their browsers. Your lifestyle, your interests and even your geographic location are among the things that shape your profile as a customer.

The good news for consumers is that those factors also help define their ideal Internet providers. Once you've identified your own profile, you should have no problem sorting through the various Internet companies to find the one that offers the best fit.

Fiber optics for the fast lane

Fiber optic technology has served the online needs of government and industry for years, but now Internet service providers are bringing it home.

Lasers send pulses of light carrying information along a network of glass strands, and converters change the light into electrical impulses that computers can interpret. Fiber-to-the-home technology helps online users like you take advantage of speed and data capacity unlike anything the residential market has seen before.

Speed and price are a plus; availability is a work in progress

Fiber optic Internet providers claim that the technology lets customers load data like photos and videos several times faster than they can with cable service.

Fiber optic technology also creates new opportunities for bundling. Because the ultra-thin glass strands can carry a lot of information - and carry it quickly - providers can easily offer phone, cable and Internet service on a single data stream.

You might expect this kind of performance to come at a steep price, but the affordability of fiber optic Internet compares favorably with other services. The only significant drawback involves availability. South Carolina Internet companies might not offer fiber optic service in your area - at least not yet. Also, individual hardware and the structure of the local network could affect your Internet service's performance.

Poised for the future

Still, rapidly advancing technology has some experts convinced that fiber optic Internet represents the future of home Internet service.

A study by the Discovery Institute predicted that in 2015, America's total Internet traffic will be 50 times greater than in 2005. Out of all the forms of Internet service, fiber optic would seem best prepared to accommodate such substantial growth.

DSL and cable: similar performance, different drawbacks

DSL, or Digital Subscriber Line, provides a reliable high-speed connection that sends information along the same wires as your home telephone line.

The copper wires used in phone lines leave plenty of available bandwidth for DSL providers. Since many homes are already equipped with telephone connections, DSL represents a practical source of Internet service for many customers.

However, the disadvantages of Internet service with DSL providers include:

  • Your proximity to the provider's central office affects speed. The farther away your home is, the slower your service will be.
  • The location of central offices can also affect availability.
  • As landline use declines, DSL-ready phone connections may follow suit.

Cable Internet providers use the same wires that bring television into your home. Cable offers speed comparable to that of DSL.

Even though cable is widely available and maintains signal strength over long distances, having to share bandwidth with other users can cause problems. Whenever a lot of your neighboring cable customers go online at the same time you do, you'll see a decrease in speed.

Wireless and satellite: through the air and down to earth

Wireless Internet service providers take wires and cables out of the transmission process - the information travels by radio waves.

Wireless users rely on pockets of wi-fi signal, known as hotspots, to operate personal computers and mobile devices. With a quality network, users can enjoy broadband-quality speed in addition to mobility.

Unfortunately, not all hotspots are created equal. Performance depends heavily on the size and availability of hotspots over a wireless network, factors that can vary substantially among wireless Internet companies.

While on-the-go young professionals in densely populated metropolitan areas might find wireless service intriguing, the appeal of satellite Internet takes a rural route. Satellite Internet customers typically live in out-of-the-way areas without cable or DSL service where dial-up is the only other option.

While satellite Internet doesn't offer the same speed as DSL or cable, it does perform considerably better than dial-up. For people who live in the more rural areas of South Carolina, cheap Internet with satellite providers might be the best option.

More choice brings more opportunity

Instead of feeling paralyzed by the vast array of choices among Internet providers, you should actually find it encouraging. With so many options, the chances of finding your perfect match are that much greater.

Research your options thoroughly and make an informed decision. It's your opportunity to apply an age-old lesson to contemporary technology - knowledge is power.

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