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APRIL 11, 2006
(Updated December 23, 2009)


In the modern era of the Internet websites are more elaborate and can do much more than they could 10 years ago. This has created problems for web users using traditional dial-up connections, most notably longer and longer download times for web pages making web browsing tedious, time consuming and reducing the effectiveness of certain web technologies, especially multimedia. Because of this, the advent of broadband was necessary.

Why Broadband Became Necessary

When the Internet was invented it was intended solely to transmit text between computers. Over the years the Internet evolved to become much more than its designer intended. Over time, images were added, complex forms necessary for e-commerce were created, Flash aninmations were added and more recently multimedia (audio and video) were added to websites to enhance the web users experience. However, all of these new technologies greatly increased the required bandwith necessary to implement them and greatly increased the download time of web pages to unexceptible levels. Traditional dial-up connections were never designed to handle so much bandwith. Thus, broadband was invented.

Dial-Up vs. Broadband

There are two distinct differences between dial-up and broadband. First, dial-up requires you to dial a number to access the Internet, with no guarantee of getting a connection and a strong likelyhood of getting "bumped" if user traffic is heavy (especially for AOL users). Broadband however, is "always on". There is no need to dial a connection to access the Internet and you cannot get "bumped". Second, and most important, broadband is many times faster than dial-up could ever hope to be. Dial-up connections have a maximum speed of 56 Kbps, whereas broadband can have a speed up to 3 Mbps. While it is true that broadband can be twice as expensive as dial-up, you will see that the extra expense is well worth it.

Types of Broadband

There are primarily four types of broadband: Cable, DSL (Digital Subcriber Line), Satellite, and T1.

Cable uses the same coaxial cable that your cable television is hooked up to. Cable is "always on" and has the highest connection speed of all the broadband options, up to 100 Mbps. Cable's only flaw, which is minor, is that the more traffic there is in your neighborhood, the slower your connection speed. However, because cable is so fast, most people would never notice the difference.

DSL uses standard phone lines with varying speeds from 768Kbps (Basic DSL) to 1Mbps (Premium DSL). Unlike standard dial-up, with an adaptor you can talk on your phone line while your DSL line is active. DSL's major downfall is that the further you away you are from the telephone exchange, the slower your connection speed.

Satellite uses a satellite dish to receive signals from a satellite in space. It's speed is less than DSL, around 150Kbps. Satellite's major flaw is that the connection is adversely affected by poor weather.

T1 connections, with standard connections speeds of 1.44 Mbps, are special commercially installed connections intended for large companies and institutions with many computers connected to the Internet. Because these are special lines, they can cost thousands of dollars.

The Speed Difference

When we check the download speed of a content heavy website we can see the difference broadband makes. For our benchmark, we will use as our subject website and's Web Page Analyzer tool to test its download speed. After we run our analysis, we see that our website takes 29.01 seconds to download with a standard 56K dial-up connection, totally unexceptible by most people's standards. However, T1 at 1.44 Mbps (with Premium DSL and Basic Cable being approximately the same speed) the website takes a scant 1.74 seconds to download!


As you can see, broadband has many advantages over traditional dial-up connections, including faster download times and better connection reliability. Lastly, don't be fooled by all those television ads for cheap (under $15 per month) prices for Internet services. If you read the small print, you will see that they are for standard dial-up service. As the saying goes, "You get what you pay for".