Broadband Connections

A broadband connection delivers songs, videos, and digital photos to your computer in minutes instead of hours. We're talking at least 20 times faster than a dial-up modem. Complex Web pages that take almost a minute to appear in your browser with a standard modem will pop up almost immediately with a cable modem or DSL.

And that's not the only reason about half of all Internetters have signed up for broadband service. Here are some of the other perks:

No dialing. These connection methods hook you up to the Internet permanently, full time, so that you don't waste time connecting or disconnectingever. You're always online. There's no 40-second wait while your modem screeches and dials.

No weekends lost to setup. You can set up the equipment yourself to save a few bucks. But most people take the easy road: they allow a representative from the phone company or cable company to come to their home or office to install the modem and configure the Mac or PC to use it.

Possible savings. Cable modems and DSL services cost $30 to $40 a month. If you, a dial-up customer, have been paying for two phone lines just so you can talk and be online at the same time, you'll actually save money with broadband because you can cancel the second phone line.

Broadband connections usually come in the form of a cable modem or DSL box (digital subscriber line). (In some remote areas, you can also get broadband satellite service. But this method is slow, expensive, and rare in residential areas.)

As the name suggests, a cable modem uses your cable-TV company's network of wires to pipe data into your house, right alongside Comedy Central and HBO. DSL, on the other hand, uses your existing telephone lines to carry its signal. You usually sign up for DSL service through your phone company.

Broadband connections generally require a computer with an Ethernet jack.It looks like a telephone jack, but slightly fatter. This jack's an indication that your computer contains a network card, used for creating a wired connection to a home network, office network, cable modem, or DSL box. Most computers sold since about 2001 have such a jack.

If your computer doesn't have a network card, you can add one, as an internal card that you install inside; a metal, credit card-size card that fits into a laptop card slot; or an external box that dangles from the computer's USB connector.