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Choices in Internet Access: ISDN, DSL, Cable, AOL, or Local Access

© 2000 Virginia Lawrence, Ph.D.

Anyone new to the Internet is confused by the number of choices available for Internet access. The prices vary, the modems differ, and the advantages are unclear. This article gives you a quick outline of the choices so that you can choose the least expensive Internet access for your needs.

High-speed Access

ISDN service is the most expensive of the high-speed access services discussed here, yet ISDN can be slower than the other choices. Private users and small businesses should ignore ISDN and get their high-speed access at a lower price with DSL or cable.

DSL service uses your phone lines, but DSL is not available everywhere. Many companies offering DSL access offer free installation and free equipment, followed by a monthly fee of approximately $39.95. DSL gives you fast access, but installations are often problematic.

Cable and DSL are about equally fast in ideal conditions. Cable access in Southern California is provided by Roadrunner through your local cable operator. If you now have cable TV, you can probably get free installation for Internet cable access. The cable companies have experienced installation departments, and they usually install within two weeks of your signup. At a monthly charge of $39.95, cable access is the best of the fast online access choices today. See

Dial-up Access

AOL is the best-known name in dialup Internet access providers, and AOL has several advantages, starting with the prices. Rates start at $4.95 per month and increase to only $21.95 per month for unlimited access. AOL is good for the new Internet user, because AOL makes access easy. AOL has local access numbers all over the US, so wherever you live and travel, you can use your AOL account. AOL users seldom get the busy signals they heard in the past, but AOL access is not particularly fast. In fact, DSL and cable are about 50 times faster than the fastest AOL dialup connection. The speed of AOL access is certainly fast enough for the occasional Internet user and for ordinary e-mail. However, AOL Internet access can be a hindrance in a business environment, because AOL users are limited to using the AOL e-mail software, and that e-mail software reacts in unexpected ways to e-mail attachments and links.

Qnet is a Southern California dialup access provider with a strong record of quality service. Qnet offers local dialup numbers in Santa Barbara, Ventura, Oxnard, Simi, Lancaster, and the San Fernando Valley. Their dialup access charges range from $9.95 to $21.95, depending on usage. You can go to their site at to request their startup CD.


If you are an occasional Internet user, an inexpensive dialup access provider can give you access speeds from 28K to 56K You may never have a need to increase your access speed, so you can use the least expensive access. Qnet is a dependable access provider, and Qnet will let you use the best of the e-mail software.

If you use the Internet all day, or you carry out extensive online research, a high-speed connection will let you do your online work up to 50 times faster, and it will improve your mood. Today, the best choice in high-speed is a cable connection.

Enjoy the best online access for your needs!

~ Virginia Lawrence, Ph.D. is an Information Architect who publishes both in print and online. Contact her at or visit her Web site at



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