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Internet Options Vary With Cost, Location
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Getting Internet access can be a simple chore if only one option is available, but in Mississippi's larger cities, consumers have to decide among an array of options.
Dan Brook, head of computer applications with Mississippi State University's Extension Service, said which one to choose depends on a variety of factors.
"First, you need to determine what types of access are available in the area," Brook said. "Next, consider cost and reliability, and ask the Internet provider how close you will be to the central telephone office, as they are the ones providing the service and most providers are distance-sensitive with certain access technologies."
Mississippians currently have six different ways to access the Internet at home. Some are available only in select areas, and prices range quite a bit.
"Most everybody in Mississippi with Internet access uses standard dial-up through analog telephone lines," Brook said. "Prices range from $15.95 to $19.95 a month for unlimited use."
Dial-up access is available nearly everywhere in the state, offering access speeds up to 56K. However, users seldom see access faster than 33K due to local line quality. In most places, users can't make or receive calls while online.
A second technology is ISDN, or Integrated Services Digital Network, which offers faster Internet access, with speeds of 64K to 128K. This, also, is a dial-up service, and available only in the state's more populated areas, such as Tupelo, Jackson, the Coast, Starkville and Oxford.
ADSL, or Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line, has very limited availability in Mississippi. It usually offers Internet access at speeds of 384K over a direct connection through a separate telephone line.
"The speed depends on what the system offers and the distance from the telephone company switching office," Brook said. "With ADSL, you are online with higher speeds and continuous connectivity."
Where available, ADSL access costs from $39.95 to $59.95 a month.
Cable modems are another popular way to gain Internet access and these require a box tied into the cable system. These come in two varieties; one is a hybrid that uses telephone lines for outgoing commands and the cable system for downloads. The other system has one high speed cable channel for transmitting data and another high speed channel for receiving.
"Cable modems share a line with everybody on the system, but speeds can run as high as 10MB," Brook said. "Monthly prices can run $30 for unidirectional and $40 for bidirectional."
Another option is direct connectivity through a frame relay leased line. These are available in speeds of 64K to T1 (1.544MB) and come in increments of 64K. These lines are available to schools, libraries and state agencies, and depending on the speed, vary in cost from $130 to $480 a month. Commercial and average consumers costs for these same lines are much higher.
Wireless connectivity, or wireless IP, is available only in the Jackson area, but is soon coming to some of the state's larger cities. This access requires no land wires to provide Internet access at speeds ranging from 2MB to 11MB, depending on available technologies.
Brook said he thought land-based wireless, ISDN and ASDL technology won't be widespread few some time and will spread with the population base. Until then, Internet users will have to choose from the existing, slower options.
"The last mile -- getting connectivity from the carriers to the home -- is the most expensive," Brook said. "Economics drive this technology, and companies deploy it in high population areas where they can make money quicker. However, around the end of the year, two-way satellite-based Internet access with two-way speeds of 10MB should be available for about $80 a month. This technology will offer Internet access almost anywhere for anybody."