Navigating high speed internet providers’ spectrum of services


In the United States, there are approximately 2675 internet service providers (ISPs) providing various types of internet services categorized based on the means through which data is transferred.  The state of New York currently has 41 internet providers, and it is the 4th most connected state amongst the others. In most states, consumers are able to access to a variety of types of internet services, including DSL, cable, fiber and satellite-based internet services, each of those has its own defining features. Hence, confusion often arises when it comes to choosing one from these internet services, the process of which can be made simpler by understanding how the Internet works and how these services differ from one to another. Spectrum is the second largest internet provider in the United States. Spectrum is accessible to approximately 102.7 million people and provides both cable and fibre internet services. Its tiered pricing system is easy to understand, and it is what makes them stand out from the other competitors. They utilize a hybrid fibre-coaxial (HFC) network to deliver wired broadband services. 

The Internet is a massive network of interconnected devices for data transmission purposes by means of the use of various types of wires, cables and antennas, alongside other types of devices forming part of the overall network infrastructure. Most computers come with built-in TCP/IP network capability. TCP/IP, which is Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol in full, is the language of the Internet. Comprising of four distinct layers, it is a set of standardized rules that enable TCP/IP-enabled computers on a network to communicate. Software programs interact with the application layer, the first layer, on which one can find numerous application protocols, including SMTP, FTP, HTTP and so forth. Different programs communicate with different application protocols, depending on the purposes of the programs. 

On the second layer, known as the transport layer, data sent from the first layer is divided into packets and these packets are delivered to the third layer, called the Internet Layer. On this layer, the assigned Internet Protocol (IP) gets the packets from the second layer and adds virtual address information, which is the IP addresses of the sender and receiver. The packets are then sent to the fourth layer. The fourth layer is the network interface layer that gets the packets, called datagrams on this layer, and deliver them over the network. Between two computers, the speed of datagram sending and receiving is affected by two factors, bandwidth and latency. Bandwidth is the maximum number of bits that can be transferred per unit time. Whereas, latency is the amount of time it requires for a datagram to travel from the source to the destination. Theoretically, the size of a TCP datagram is approximately 64 bytes. 

Currently, consumers in the U.S. are able to choose from a number of kinds of internet services, ranging from DSL to satellite-based services, with each of these available types having its own pros and cons. DSL stands for digital subscriber line and is a type of connection that transfers data through a telephone network via a telephone cable consisting of twisted-pair copper wires. It is the most famous connection globally. However, it has a low bandwidth with a high latency, offering download speeds in the range of 5 to 35 Mbps, with the upload speeds being in the 1 to 10 Mbps range. The main advantage of this connection type is that it is often the cheapest internet service in comparison with the others. 

Another type of connection is known as a cable connection. It transmits data through a cable television network via a coaxial copper cable. This connection is faster than DSL and highly reliable, with a higher bandwidth and lower latency. However, it sometimes slows down during peak hours due to the arrangement of its network infrastructure and is generally more expensive than a DSL connection. In terms of a wired internet connection, a fiber optic connection is the fastest and a relatively new type of internet connection. Having the highest bandwidth and lowest latency, it transfers data through a fiber optic network, offering download and upload speeds up to 1,000 Mbps. However, it is comparatively the most expensive alternative. 

In areas where wired connections are unavailable, connecting to the Internet is possible through a satellite connection. Data is transferred from one computer wirelessly through the connected satellite dish to the provider’s satellite spacecraft, and the signal then bounces back from the satellite spacecraft to the provider’s satellite dish. However, with the lowest bandwidth and highest latency, it is considered as the slowest and most unreliable internet connection, and the maximum bandwidth that it can achieve is only around 25 Mbps. 

The fiber optic internet is currently the fastest internet service available. However, cable connections are still widely used by Americans due to their affordability and performance. When choosing an internet service provider, it is necessary to ascertain your budget constraints, speed requirements and connection reliability expectations. Considering these factors during the selection process will help you opt for one that you will not regret in future. 

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