Get on the Broadband Bandwagon
In late March 2004, President George W. Bush announced that the United States needs to build a foundation for the spread of broadband technology, aiming for universal, affordable access to broadband by the year 2007. According to the president’s plan, broadband will have positive effects on America’s competitiveness around the world, enhancing productivity and driving innovation.
Broadband, or high-speed, always-on Internet access, grew by 230 percent between December 2000 and June 2003. The main barriers to adoption for businesses include price concerns and access issues, though 75 percent of locations in the United States have access to either DSL (digital subscriber line) or cable broadband technologies. It’s likely that your business has access to a number of broadband options, and even in remote locations, your choices are increasing.
Most broadband connections rely on cable, which offers speeds up to 2 Mbps in the real world. The downside to cable is that because the lines are shared with your neighbors, your speeds can vary.
There are plenty of cable broadband providers throughout the United States. Road Runner claims to offer service twice as fast as DSL. Road Runner Business Class (rrbiz.com) is designed for business users of all sizes. Comcast (www.comcast.com) boasts speeds up to 1.5 Mbps faster than DSL and also offers packages designed specifically for businesses with telecommuting workers. RCN Cable (www.rcn.com/business) offers a range of services for businesses, including advanced networking technologies. Charter Business Networks (www.charterbusi nessnetworks.com) offers business services such as high-speed Internet access and communications, with speeds up to 1 Gbps.
Other providers of cable broadband services include:
• Adelphia (www.adelphia.com/business_solutions)
• CableOne (www.cableone.com)
• Cablevision (www.optimumonline.com/business)
• Cox Communications (www.cox.com)
• Insight Communications (www.buytelco.com)
• Mediacom (www.mediacomcc.com)
DSL is the second most popular broadband option. Speeds range from 256 Kbps to 1.5 Mbps. Installation can be difficult if you’re relying on service providers, but if you’ve got the skills, many providers will give you the tools to do the installation on your own.
Sonic.net’s Advanced DSL (www.sonic.net) reaches speeds up to 3 Mbps and claims to be an excellent choice for small businesses. SBC Yahoo DSL (www.sbc.com) offers various packages for home and business users. SBC says its DSL service can get up to about 1.544 Mbps downstream, but like most broadband, upstream speeds are slower, at about 128 Kbps. One exception to this rule is Covad (www.covad.com). Its Enterprise TeleSpeed service offers symmetrical speeds (same for upload and download) up to 1.5 Mbps. Qwest (www.qwest.com) offers DSL options for various business sizes with download speeds up to 1.5 Mbps.
Other providers of DSL for business users include:
• Alltel (www.alltel.com/dsl_internet/index.html)
• BellSouth (www.bellsouth.com)
• DSL Extreme (www.dslextreme.com)
• Earthlink (www.earthlink.com)
• MCI Internet DSL(business.mci.com/small_business/internet/dsl.jsp)
• Speakeasy Broadband (www.speakeasy.net)
• Sprint (www.sprint.com/fastconnect)
• Verizon (biz.verizon.net)
According to the President’s Technology Agenda, 75 percent of zip codes in the United States have both cable modem and DSL access to broadband. If you’re not in those areas, fixed wireless includes various technologies that use transmission towers to connect to the Internet for data transmission. Download speeds average around 1 to 2 Mbps, but your access can be disrupted by the weather or by anything that stands between you and the tower. Check with your local ISPs on availability.
Another option is satellite broadband service. It’s more expensive and it’s not nearly as quick as DSL, so this will probably be your last resort. The fact that you’re bouncing signals off a satellite tens of thousands of miles away means this is not the best option if the lag time is going to be a problem, like if your business does a lot of Web conferencing or other real-time activities. Three big providers of satellite services are DirecPC (www.direcpc.com), DirecWay (www.direcway.com) and StarBand (www.starband.com). The best thing about the satellite option is that if you can see the southern sky, you can get broadband access, making it available in locations where access to cable and DSL, and even wireless, is limited.