June 29, 2005
If you're out in the sticks, DirecWay satellite Internet service may be your first, best, and only hope for broadband access. The service works by connecting your PC to a geosynchronous satellite, which links to DirecWay's terrestrial gateways to the Internet. Today's systems do away with the clumsy landline connections of yesteryear for upstream data. And while data rates can be acceptable (up to 500 Kbps), the delay introduced by a 44,000-mile round trip from home to satellite and back makes DirecWay inappropriate for gaming, voice over IP, and virtual private network connections.
Cost: $50 to $100 per month
Best for: Rural locations
Pros: Available almost anywhere; provides access in rural areas otherwise outside of broadband's reach.
Cons: Expensive; limited bandwidth; high lag times make it inappropriate for many applications; requires southern view of sky to find satellite.
Broadband Over Power LineBPL takes advantage of the same phenomenon that lets DSL share signals with voice traffic--electricity travels at a lower frequency than data signals. Companies have therefore decided to offer broadband over the electrical wires that come into homes. Although BPL tests have been ongoing around the country, working deployments remain limited as power companies weigh whether or not to get into the broadband market. Still, cities such as Cincinnati, Ohio, and Manassas, Virginia, have BPL service. In Cincinnati, Current Communications offers service through Cinergy for $30 to $50 per month, depending on the download speed you want (3 Mbps is the current max).
Opinions on the prospects for BPL are split. Research firm Telecommunication Trends International projects that worldwide BPL deployments will jump from $57.1 million in 2004 to $4.4 billion by 2011. But Radicati Group analyst Teney Takahashi says bluntly: "Power line broadband is not going to happen."
Cost: $30 to $50 per month
Best for: Remote areas not served by cable or DSL, or any area poorly served by cable or DSL
Pros: Power lines are ubiquitous and reach homes not served by cable or by DSL-capable phone lines.
Cons: Not widely deployed; significant issues with the data signal producing broadcast interference; power companies lack the service bundling advantages of phone or cable providers.
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