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Emerging Trends sample essay

Communications technology is progressing at light-speed, seemingly shrinking our world, as we can now communicate and conduct business in real time around the globe. Through innovations such as high-speed modem technology, businesses and people can share new ideas with friends and colleagues from the farthest lands. As more people and businesses strive to globalize, existing communication technologies are overloading, as they have approached the limitations of today’s available hardware.

To gain higher speed access to the available information over the Internet, there are many factors one must research, as they ultimately work together. These factors include hardware, choosing an Internet Service Provider (ISP), as well as a modem, which will be used to send and receive the data via the Internet.

The intent of this document is to review the latest high-speed technologies for improving information access using the Internet. By understanding these new technologies, one can make a more informed decision when choosing their hardware and ISP.

Choosing Hardware for Individual Needs: Computer Choices

To gain faster Internet access requires choosing a faster computer that best suits one’s needs. In determining the type of computer to purchase, one should first determine the application in which it will be used most. Applications such as word processing, computer games, and Internet access, all require various hardware and operating systems. Today, there are three main choices for computers, which include laptops, PCs, and hand-held devices. “Until recently, we only needed to decide on the type and speed of the processor that we wanted in our new computer, since most of the Intel Pentium based computers had a data bus with a maximum speed of 66 MHz” (PC World, 2000, July, p. 33). “With the release of the new Intel 100 MHz bus architecture, this has changed, as the new line of Pentium II and Pentium III processors use this new bus instead of the older 66 MHz bus” (PC World, 2000, July, p. 33). Needless to say, a PC equipped with this much power will surely increase the communication speed between the processor and components in the computer.

The main advantage of a notebook computer, versus a desktop, is the size and portability. Due to their smaller size, notebooks are the computer of choice for people that have limited space in their office or home. “A typical notebook computer will contain either an Intel Celeron, Pentium III, or AMD K6 processor, which all range in speed, while the more common speeds vary from 600 MHz to 850 MHz” (PC World, 2000, July, p. 37). The price of a standard notebook computer typically ranges between $1200 to $1900.

Introduced in 1996, handheld computers, also known as Palm Pilots and Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs), have been gaining in popularity. These devices are portable and are no larger than a palm-size calculator. One of the most popular models on the market today is the Visor, offered in three models, ranging from $149 to $249 (Businessweek Online website, November 15, 1999, p. 192). While the speed of a handheld computer may vary, according to one source, the Palm Vx model runs slightly faster than other handhelds. “It runs with a 20mhz processor versus the 16mhz found in other models” (Palmgear website, 2000). Most palms come with standard applications like an address book, calculator, and a date book. Newer palms will also allow the user e-mail capabilities, using a memo pad similar to the Windows notepad. Since Internet access is now available as an option for handheld computers, they are a viable choice for consumers.

Choosing an Internet Service Provider (ISP)

Next, one needs to decide on an Internet Service Provider (ISP), and whether it is for personal or business use. Today, many companies offer free Internet Service to consumers and businesses. Broadband Digital Group (BDD) offers free dial up service at no additional cost, and is available nationwide. Another free ISP is Bluelight.com, which allows customers to shop online and receive various discounts on items purchased with Kmart. Free ISPs are economical and provide many of the services of fee based ISPs, such as sending and receiving email, web surfing, and online shopping. Although some people find free ISPs to be economical, there are some disadvantages. Free ISPs represent less than 13 percent of the market, and are used as an alternate means to connect online (Fusco, 1999, pars. 4-6). With this, the customer is provided with Internet access, but not the quality service that is provided by most fee-based ISPs. In some cases, free ISPs do not provide consumers with high-speed delivery, which results in slower connection speeds.

According to a recent report by Patricia Fusco, fee-based Internet access service providers are among the elite and provide high quality, high speed, and wireless services. The top rated ISPs are, AT&T WorldNet, EarthLink, Inc., MSN, America Online, CompuServe, and Prodigy. All of these services can provide consumers with high-speed service, good customer service, and technical support (Fusco, 2000a, pars. 2-10).

There are, however, some disadvantages with fee-based ISPs, as the monthly billing fees can range from $7.00-$40.00 per month. In addition, providers such as AOL, Prodigy, MSN, and CompuServe have monthly billing plans that must be applied to a customer’s major credit card or telephone bill. Payment by check is also an option, however, your ISP provider applies a surcharge. Fee based ISPs benefit people and companies who have a need for high capacity, high-speed, and a broad range of features. Providers like AT &T and MSN offer wireless service plans, so consumers have the option of accessing the Internet through their laptops or personal PDAs (Fusco, 2000b, pars. 4-6).

In determining which ISP is best, one should consider cost, speed, availability, and technical support. The content of the ISP’s website, personal services, and customer satisfaction should also be considered.

Choosing a High-Speed Modem Technology: Cable vs. DSL

Of course, there is much more to achieving high-performance Internet access than just choosing a fast computer and an Internet Service Provider, as one will also need a connection capable of handling all of this bandwidth. Recently, there are new emerging technologies that will allow you to access information over the Internet at blinding speeds. Today, one can choose between new high-speed subscriber lines, such as Digital Subscriber Line (DSL) or Cable Modem, which enables one to access information over 10 times faster than the 56K modem. To utilize DSL will require a DSL-capable modem, which connects to the phone lines already present in the home.

Installing DSL is a bit tricky. Although there are installation kits available, it is easier to have the phone company install the service, since installation requires a few components needed for avoiding interference while using the modem and telephone at the same time. The cost of installing DSL runs between $50-$100, while the monthly service fee averages about $80 per month, and includes an ISP (PC World, 2000, May, p. 106). DSL is not yet offered in all areas, however, a recent survey from The Yankee Group estimates that 21% of US households will have access to DSL shortly (PC World, 2000, May, p. 104).

Cable Modem is another high-speed solution for accessing the Internet. Cable Modem technology offers similar performance as DSL, yet the technology is a bit different, as it utilizes the existing television cable in the home. Like DSL, Cable Modem access will require a special modem and can be installed by the consumer, or by a local cable company. Expect to pay approximately $100 for the installation, while the monthly service fee averages about $50 per month (PC World, 2000, May, p. 106). The Yankee Group estimates that 41% of US households will have access to Cable Modem technology, which is limited to those households already equipped with cable television services (PC World, 2000, May, p. 104).

87% of Cable Modem users and 86% of DSL users are satisfied with the performance, according to a PC World survey (PC World, 2000, May, p. 116). While the monthly service fees are more for DSL, as compared to Cable Modem, the fees are expected to normalize as the technology becomes more widespread. In reviewing these high-speed technologies, the choice begins to shift from choosing between DSL and Cable Modem, to choosing between either of these two, along with any of the new computers.

Summary

This study reveals that to gain high speed connectivity, any of the new computer hardware choices are adequate. The key to high speed information access is now governed by your connection, where this situation was revered just a few short years ago. DSL and Cable Modem both offer substantial performance improvements over conventional 56K Internet access. Either choice enables high-speed Internet access, which will be a vital component as more and more on-line information begins to congest the information pipeline. To truly gain high speed Internet access, one must incorporate either of these new modem technologies, along with their choice of hardware, which should be based on one’s individual needs.

References

Businessweek Online website. (November 15, 2000) The Palm is Mightier…, [Available] Retrieved March 31, 2001, from the World Wide Web: www.businessweek.com

Fusco, P. (1999, December). Jupiter: Free ISPs won’t replace dial-up access (16 paragraphs). InternetNews – ISP News Archives, [Available] Retrieved March 31, 2001, from the World Wide Web: www.internetnews.com

Fusco, P. (2000a, May). AT &T Wireless Debuts Free Wireless Internet (15 paragraphs) InternetNews – ISP News Archives, [Available] Retrieved March 31, 2001, from the World Wide Web:
http://www.internet.news.com/isp-news/article/0,,8_356751,00.html

Fusco, P. (2000b, September). J.D. Powers Ranks Big Six ISPs (19 paragraphs). InternetNews – ISP News Archives, [Available] Retrieved March 31, 2001, from the World Wide Web: http://www.internetnews.com/isp-news/article/0,,8_460761,00.html

Overton, R & Goavec, P. (May 2000). PC World – Broadband or Bust, Volume 18, Number 5. 102-108, 112, 116

Palmgear website. (Copyright 2000, internet.com Corp),
[Available] Retrieved March 31, 2001, from the World Wide Web: www.palmblvd.com

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