Internet 101

This is my guide to the basics of using the Internet. It covers connecting to the Internet, searching for information, protecting your personal info, and creating a website of your own.

What Is Broadband Internet?

Any high speed Internet connection that is faster than dial-up access and is always on is considered to be broadband. When the term was first defined, a broadband connection was considered to be anything 256 Kbps and above. Recently, in 2010, the FCC redefined the term broadband to refer to a connection with at least 4 Mbps upstream and 1 Mbps downstream.

Obviously, dial-up can never be considered broadband because it is limited to 56 Kbps. However, the new FCC guidelines for broadband make it so that many of the cheapest DSL connections don't count as broadband, either. Some of the basic DSL packages only connect at 768 Kbps upstream and 256 Kbps downstream. Even the CEO of AT&T, Randall Stephenson, was quoted in 2011 as saying, "DSL is obsolete".

Types of Broadband Connections

In America, the primary choice for residential Internet access is simple. You can pick between DSL or cable. Fiber optics and wireless networks new and they are changing things, but as of early 2014, most people are still using DSL or a cable Internet connection. The main types include:

Right now, cable is the dominant form of Internet service where I live, in the United States. Other countries, like Korea and Japan, have gone almost entirely fiber optic. They have speeds much faster than most people over here. I checked with a lot of Internet service providers in my area, and it looks like I can get over 100 Mbps, but man, it costs so much more than it does overseas. In reality, the average connection speed in the U.S. is around 23 Mbps (according to the Net Index).

Below is a quick overview of the main types and how fast they are.

Cable Internet

Your choice of cable Internet providers is limited to the same companies that provide you with cable television service. For example, if Comcast is your current cable provider for TV reception, then you will have to choose them for cable Internet service, as well.

DSL Internet

To get Internet access through most DSL providers, you're local phone lines will have to be fitted with special copper wires in order to receive DSL Internet signals. In older cities and most rural areas, such wires are currently not in widespread use, and so DSL service is limited to those areas which are already equipped with copper wires.

Fiber Optic Internet

The trend in broadband is now moving towards fiber optics. These connections provided speeds up to 1 Gbps. They require a certain type of fiber optic cable, so they are only available in areas with a high population. Even cable companies are replacing some of their cable lines with fiber. The main fiber optic Internet services in the U.S. are Verizon FiOS, AT&T U-Verse, and the new Google Fiber.

Satellite Internet

While both cable and DSL are faster than satellite Internet service, their range of availability can be limited to urban areas. However, if you have a clear view of the southern sky from your home anywhere in the continental United States, then you can access the Internet using a satellite ISP. New satellites have been launched in the last few years that have greatly increased the speeds of satellite Internet. Also, satellite TV companies, such as DISH Internet, are now entering the broadband market.

Wireless Internet

For those who travel a lot, different forms of high speed Wireless Internet Access are now available for your laptop or cell phone. Availability of these new wireless services varies greatly, but they are typically found in areas like hotels, airports, cafes, and the like. So, at the current time, wireless Internet is not "everywhere", but it will be available in the places where you need it most while traveling in the U.S.