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How do you connect to the internet?
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Jim Hillier
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October 13, 2008 - 5:51 pm
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Hi All - As a follow up to Dave's excellent article (latest news letter 01/10/08) on broadband and it's affect on a nation's economy, I though it might be interesting to compare notes on which types of services we use.
First up, I have been amazed at the number of people I have come across (via forums, etc.) in the U.S.A. who remain on dial-up.....the technology in the U.S. is way ahead of us here yet you hardly ever hear of anyone on dial-up in Oz.
I am currently on an ADSL plan with 'Dodo' which gives me 512kbps max. speed and a 15gb download limit for $44.90 per month. Lately I have been considering upgrading my connection speed....the local exchange is not enabled for ADSL2 so I am stuck with whatever speeds ADSL can offer. The plan I am looking at is for 1.5mbps speed which would cost $49.95 per month......there are plans available for 8.0mbps but they are a tad too expensive for me.
Several ISP's offer the 1.5mbps plan for exactly the same money (no collusion there ) and I am thinking of changing servers.....the three I am looking at (other than Dodo) are Netspace, Internode and TPG. If anyone from Oz has had any experience with these organizations, any input/advice would be most gratefully received.

[b:33hvw02h]ZIG[/b:33hvw02h] - Are you up and running on your wonderful FIOS system yet??

cheers all........JIM

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Mindblower
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October 13, 2008 - 10:34 pm
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If you're getting the service via phone line, the speed (especially the high speed numbers) is often limited by how far you are from the fastest link terminal. That's the problem in my case. I should be able to get a much faster rate, but I have to wait for the cables in my area to get closer to my home. A friend get his high speed via cable company, but they have various rates (go over and you pay galore). Plus, if the area is very saturated with cable users (using the internet), you'll experience many lo's and hi's depending on the time of day. It's not as cut as dry as one might think.

And as to why many still use the dial-up service, it's called free cell service after certain hours. Makes sense to help cut expenses if one is already paying a hefty fee for the phone, Mindblower!

"Light travels faster than sound;
That is why some people seem bright until you hear them speak"

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Jim Hillier
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October 13, 2008 - 11:50 pm
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Hey Mindblower - The majority of Australia receives internet via telephone lines. Cable TV and cable services in general are confined, strictly, to large city areas....the rest of Australia is serviced by satellite (for pay TV, etc.). So, in terms of area, cable coverage is far outweighed by the telephone system.
We have some pretty unique demographics here, such a large country with such a sparse population and that presents some unique problems. Take where I live for example, on the central Queensland coast, the nearest big city is Brisbane (some 250 miles South) ....my local exchange was enabled for broadband just over 2 years ago, an upgrade to ADSL2 is unlikely in my lifetime (mind you, I am pretty ancient ), fibre optics and cable would both be on the 'never' list and wireless on the 25 year plan.....that's all because our relatively small population renders them all financially nonviable...as is the case with most of Australia.
As for dial-up here, well it started out quite a bit cheaper than broadband but as broadband coverage has increased and more and more people have adopted it, the costs involved are so close now that dial-up is really no longer a viable option.

cheers....JIM

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Chad Johnson
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October 14, 2008 - 9:31 am
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I don't use the Internet, it's a scary and dangerous place.

Seriously though, I'm on FiOS now, and I won't brag, but it freakin rocks. My home connection is now faster than my work connection. That's just...wow. Freak-in awesome.

OK, sorry. I'm done now.

--zig

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Jim Hillier
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October 14, 2008 - 3:59 pm
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Hey Zig - Brag away mate....if anyone takes umbrage it will only be fueled by jealousy.......oh, what's happening...I'm turning a funny colour of green

I do wish I had access to that sorta speed but I guess it's all relative...when I went from dial-up to broadband (256kbps) I thought...wow! Same when I went from 256kbps to 512kbps.....it's like, if you never had it you don't really miss it.

welcome back mate,
cheers.....JIM

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David Hartsock
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October 15, 2008 - 7:22 am
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I actually changed providers last week and was planning a short write up. Jim was reading my mind!

Here in the US there are basically 4 types of residential broadband - 1. Cable, 2. a variety of FTTN (fiber to the node) DSL, 3. a variety of FTTP (fiber to the premises) DSL, or 4. Some type of wi-fi.

Zig's Verizon FIOS is FTTP and has a very big pipe. Verizon offers IPTV (more below), VOIP (voice over IP), and some internet access to the home over this fiber connection. I'm hoping Zig will jump in here with a detailed report.

I've had cable for both television and internet for 5 years. Cable as an internet delivery method is great. Download speeds of 6-8Mpbs are the norm locally. My uploads were in the neighborhood of 768Kbps, which takes forever if you're uploading lots of data (think websites, pictures, etc).

In my area competition between cable companies is very limited. Companies are usually given exclusive areas, and I understand that to a point. If I were spending tons of money to lay coaxial cable I would not want to share my investment with another company.

[size=150:38sgolfx]Anyway...[/size:38sgolfx]
What prompted the switch is lack of customer support, never ending price increases, additional fees for this and that, and general "we don't care" attitude about their customers. Internet=great - television=not so great. Looking at alternatives the only options locally are dish based (satellite) television or IP based television. I don't want a dish mounted to my home, nor do I want coaxial cables strung on the outside of my home. I started to look into AT&T's Uverse (FTTN) solution.

[size=150:38sgolfx]A little about the technology behind cable and IPTV[/size:38sgolfx]
[b:38sgolfx]Cable Television[/b:38sgolfx]
Cable television has some inherent limitations. The cable system pipe has a fixed capacity just like any other delivery method. The problem that cable faces is they currently don't have much control over what is sent down the pipe, if they offer a channel in their lineup it must reside on the cable to your home. They can not, for the most part, selectively send channels to you.

While the cable company may set aside a little of this bandwidth for internet connections, most is consumed by television signals. Each channel the cable company offers takes a little of available bandwidth and HiDef channels can take up to 4 times the bandwidth of a regular channel. As more channels are added the cable company must compensate by lowering the bitrate of all the channels to accommodate the new channel.

Let's say the coaxial cable that runs to your house has a maximum capacity of 1000Mbps (arbitrary number). They set aside 200 for internet, interactive services, and system overhead. This leaves 800Mb available for television...
Each standard definition channel requires 4Mb and they have 200 standard channels. Hi Definition channels use 8Mb each.
200 channels x 4Mb = 800Mb. Whoops we've used all our available bandwidth. The customers buy HiDef televisions and demand we offer HiDef channels, which means we have to find 8Mbps of bandwidth for each HiDef channel we add by dropping the quality of the standard channels by .04Mb for each HD channel added. Modern cable systems in large cities may have 40 or 50 HD channels available. You can see where this would cut into available bandwidth.

Basically the cable company must drop the quality of the channels they offer for each additional channel they add to their lineup.
[b:38sgolfx]IP Television[/b:38sgolfx]:
IPTV, such as AT&T Uverse or Verizon FIOS, also has a fixed capacity. An IPTV system also sets aside a certain amount of bandwidth for internet, interactive services, and overhead. The main difference between IPTV and cable is IPTV only sends the channels you are actively watching or recording. Because of this adding channels or features does not affect the quality of the channels.

[b:38sgolfx]Encoding Differences[/b:38sgolfx]
Cable companies in the US generally use mpeg2 encoding while IPTV (and dish services) use mpeg4. Mpeg4 encoding can produce a picture equal in quality to mpeg2 with a smaller bitrate. This means a HD cable channel may be 8Mbps on cable while an IPTV HD channel might be 6.5Mbps which reduces the bandwidth IPTV must use per television channel delivered.

[b:38sgolfx]Internet Differences[/b:38sgolfx]
While internet speeds offered among cable and IPTV (DSL) providers are generally close in speed the network implementation is slightly different. Cable internet connections are similar to a network. You and your neighbors are on the same network. DSL internet connections are separate from each other by nature. If you have cable internet you will notice the speed fluctuates. Sometimes you may be blazing fast, but at busy network times your speed may fall significantly. This is because you and your neighbors are pulling off the "same" bandwidth.

[size=150:38sgolfx]Enter Uverse[/size:38sgolfx]
Several weeks ago I decided to give AT&T Uverse a try. It has been installed for 1 week today and I'm generally happy. Here is a limited feature comparison between my current cable plan and the current AT&T IPTV plan. (both bills are within $5 of each other)

[b:38sgolfx]Cable:[/b:38sgolfx]
Internet 6Mbps D/768Kbps U
15 HD channels available in my package. More coming, but some channels will lose quality to add these channels.
Video on Demand service
DVR - extra fee (can record 2 HD channels while watching a third)
[b:38sgolfx]ATT:[/b:38sgolfx]
Internet 6Mbps D/1.5Mbps U
40 HD channels available in my package. More coming. No decrease in quality needed.
Video on Demand service
DVR - included (can record 2 HD channels and 2 SD channels at once)

Conclusion:
[i:38sgolfx]Internet:[/i:38sgolfx] AT&T. While Comcast cable may have been slightly faster at 770KB (700KB for AT&T) for large files it would fluctuate depending on my neighbors usage. The fact that the AT&T DSL remains steady negates the 70KB difference. The faster upload speed is also a plus!
[i:38sgolfx]HD channels:[/i:38sgolfx] AT&T. No contest. More channels and they are much better looking.
[i:38sgolfx]Video on Demand:[/i:38sgolfx] Comcast cable. AT&T hasn't been around long enough to have the vast library that Comcast cable has.
[i:38sgolfx]DVR:[/i:38sgolfx] Comcast. AT&T can only send 2 HD and 2 SD channels down their pipe at a time. This mean if you want to record 2 HD shows and watch a third you have to watch it in SD (this generally isn't a problem for me). Because Comcast sends everthing all the time it is possible to record 2 HD shows and watch a different HD show on each TV in your home. I only have one HDTV. Someone with 2 or more HDTVs might have a problem with this.
A really cool feature that AT&T has that Comcast can't offer is whole house DVR. Anything you record on the DVR can be played back on any other TV in the house.
The AT&T DVR can also record 4 shows at a time (2 in HD and 2 in SD).
[i:38sgolfx]User Interface:[/i:38sgolfx] AT&T. The comcast interface and channel guide looks outdated and is klunky in operation. They also include ads. The AT&T interface looks nice and responds quickly. It is also very customizable.
[i:38sgolfx]Channel Changing:[/i:38sgolfx] AT&T. Comcast channel changes seem like they are in slow motion. If you are changing between a HiDef and standard channel the change may take a second or two. AT&T is instant.

Sorry if the descriptions and examples are a little basic. Just trying to show why I decided to change and why I chose the service I did. I'm running short on time as I write this, so please excuse any exclusions or omissions!

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Mindblower
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October 15, 2008 - 11:48 am
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Excellent post Dave. Some of the references you made to Cable are spot on (guess they apply here as well as the US). I prefer to use the phone lines for DSL, since that's how I discovered it (indirectly via modems and the bbs community). Not sure if one has the same choices everywhere with selecting a provider when it comes to the phone system. I'm lucky in that I can (have) and am able to reap the rewards with a better service at much lower rates. Competition is key, and my provider offers 24/7 customer service (it's unfortunate that one can only truly appreciate what this means when there is a glitch - something I rarely get).

BTW, something I'm not sure if it still exists, is satellite internert service. Read an article (ad) about a company which provided this service to those living in remote regions. Only problem being one still needed a land line connection to compliment the satellite link (one was for uploads, the other for downloads). Hope that technology has ironed out this sad twist of fate (not sure at what cost to the user), Mindblower!

"Light travels faster than sound;
That is why some people seem bright until you hear them speak"

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Jim Hillier
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October 15, 2008 - 1:32 pm
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Whoa Dave, terrific post mate. In some respects you are lucky to have a choice, in my case I can have satellite TV only from just one provider.....and for internet I get to choose between either ADSL or ADSL . At least I can select from a variety of servers, even if they are all the same price.

Mindblower - We have a 2way internet satellite service for people in remote areas which is subsidised by the government. Our (one and only) satellite TV provider attempted to get an auxiliary internet service off the ground (pardon the pun) but it failed due to lack of support.

Everyone involved in the industry here is still talking fibre optics but I wouldn't be surprised if wireless becomes the next big thing, especially if the wrangling over who should get the fibre optics contract is not settled soon.

cheers.....JIM

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Chad Johnson
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October 15, 2008 - 3:50 pm
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I refuse to use cable again, but that has to do with the pirates...er....people that work for our local cable company (I won't mention names, but it's Comcastic!!). Cable seems to overcharge for absolutely everything, and it's just....ARGH!

I like Verizon. Their FiOS service is snappy and every speed report I've run, at all sorts of random times are consistent with what they say they're selling me. Too bad the router they provide with their service is pure crap. Le sigh.

I was looking into FiOS TV, but their basic package (local channels) has all sorts of hidden fees in it, and I'm not even sure what their higher packages have. I'm sure it's full of all sorts of goodness and goodies.

I had Dish Network for over 3 years. It was a decent enough service, but their prices kept going up and their hardware kept failing.

I've never used Direct TV, but I hear they do decent as well.

Around here there are some people who have Line of Sight, or point to point, Internet. It's a beamed signal to a receiver on the roof from some other terrestrial location. I've heard it is spotty at best, but it's fast when it works.

~shrug~

Oh, and I don't use phones. I stick to my cell phone. It does what I need it to. (makes calls, shocker!!)

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David Hartsock
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October 16, 2008 - 6:26 am
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@ Zig: I just checked Verizon's site and their TV choices seem very competitive in both price and features. They are actually lower than the AT&T prices for similar packages.

@ Mindblower: Yes there are a few 2-say satellite providers and I should have included them in the wifi category. The speeds are MUCH better than dialup, but I don't think they are in the upper cable/DSL class yet. They also place a limit on consumption. Another issue is latency (time between a click and reaction). Satellite latency is often several hundred times worse than cable/DSL, eliminating it as a choice for those who participate in online gaming. Don't get me wrong. If satellite was my only choice I would have it in a minute - I couldn't live without broadband.

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Chad Johnson
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October 16, 2008 - 10:18 am
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Well, that's their advertised price.

Then you have to rent the set top box from them, for 5.99/month for each tv. unless you use the basic local package, then you have to rent the converter from them for 3.99/month for each tv.

If you want a DVR, you rent that for 7.99/month plus pay a 4.99/month access fee to get the programming guide.

It's just....reeking of false advertising, I suppose.

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youthnranting
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October 16, 2008 - 9:07 pm
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Well, I'm going from cable 6 Mbps to At&t's 6 Mbps service in a couple of weeks- I'm not too worried about it since I'm only about 70 feet from their node, but I swear to GOD if the connection makes me suck on COD4 more than I do naturally, I'm gunna do something drastic. And by drastic, I mean probably nothing at all. Lag is a bit of concern for me though, the wife and I are always online and watching TV so, it will be interesting- I'll keep you all posted.

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David Hartsock
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October 17, 2008 - 6:18 am
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OK, I'm going to admit something to you, but only if you promise NOT to tell anyone! I'm a bandwidth glutton!

I bit the bullet and changed my package from 6Mb to 10Mb. OMG! Wow! I was downloading at a consistent 1.14MB. My previous cable connection ran around 770KB and the 6Mb AT&T was around 705KB.

I actually got a little warm and fuzzy feeling inside when I saw the difference!

@ Youthnranting - I think you'll like the AT&T service. There IPTV is da bomb!

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Chad Johnson
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October 17, 2008 - 11:00 am
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OK, I'm going to admit something to you, but only if you promise NOT to tell anyone! I'm a bandwidth glutton!
[/quote:1b0grbg2]

Don't worry Dave, your secret is safe with m--umm....them!

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Carol Bratt
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November 3, 2008 - 12:34 pm
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I am one of those folks that still has a dial up connection! The reason? Mainly because I live in the woods - literally. There are no cable alternatives available to me. I could get Satellite but that doesn't always work so well in the woods either. It is very frustrating because folks who live a half mile from me have cable but I do not! Based on my interaction with Comcast though, I am not so sure I would want their service I have called them numerous times to inquire if I could pay to have the cable in my area and they have never bothered to return my call!

Dave is after me all the time to do something about it and eventually I suppose I will make the move if for no other reason than to make good old Dave happy!

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