Cybernaut - The Need for Speed 

As the time runs out on Napster and more than 150,000 songs, the people of earth embarked on a downloading frenzy, stealing copyrighted material as fast as they could download it.

Every month, Napster's 64 million registered users download billions of files. In these, the last days, at least 1.67 million people are online at any given moment – at least three times the normal volume – stockpiling MP3s like they’re going out of style.

Because storage is always an issue, Napster users have been fuelling the sales of CD burners and recordable CDs, and hardware manufacturers are wondering just how far business will drop once the music swapping giant is forced to block out the bulk of the songs that pass through its interface.

Internet service providers are also worried that in the wake of Napster, the demand for high speed Internet services will decline significantly.

If there was one event that defined the value and the utility of a high speed internet connections, this was it.

My conventional 56K modem only seems to download about 4.5 Kilobytes per second (Kbps), and that’s at two in the morning when most of the other users are asleep. High speed connections can transfer data as fast as 1.5 Megabytes per second, or about 300 times faster than I can.

At those speeds you can download five songs from Napster in less time than it takes to listen to just one of them, provided that the Napster libraries you link up with also have high speed connections. You can download an entire CD in less time than it takes to make a round trip to the record store, and for free.

The implication these days is that if you don't have a fast connection, you’re a loser, you're just not getting the most out of the Internet. You're riding a tricycle on a digital Autobahn. You're living in 1997.

You've been missing the whole point, the whole promise, the whole potential of the Internet, and to make matters worse, your MP3 collection sucks.

There are four main types and numerous subtypes of high-speed connections that are widely available, including ISDN (Integrated Services Digital Network) modems, cable modems, and Digital Subscriber Line (DSL) modems. Business T1 connections are also available in Whistler that are capable of 1.54 MB per second (for $1,000-plus a month), and satellite modems are on the way that will be available through your digital dish at 400 Kbps.

ISDN modems require a dedicated digital ISDN phone line and can transmit data at 128 Kbps, but they are typically limited to about 92 Kbps by the speed of your serial connector cable.

Cable modems are capable of 1.5 MB and faster, but the line must be shared with other users. During peak hours they are perceptibly slower.

DSL connections are typically capable of 1.5 to 2 MBps transfer rates in optimal circumstances, but can go as fast as 52 MBps downloading, and 13 MBps going up.

I won't get into the technical jargon, or attempt to explain why these different high tech services are different. It’s fairly complex and you're probably in a hurry.

Telus offers high speed Asymmetrical DSL (a.k.a. ADSL) which is capable of speeds of up to 1.5 MBps for $39.95 including modem rental and installation.

Advanced Internet Services offers residential 56K, point to point business ADSL, and business ISDN networking.

Mountain Internet offers a wide range of personal and business services, from basic 56K, to digital 56K, to ISDN, to wireless T1 services.

Whooshnet provides high speed Internet access through Whistler Cable. For residential customers it costs about $50 to install, $39.95 a month for unlimited surfing, and another $10 a month to rent the cable modem.

Uniserve Online offers conventional 56K and ISDN services.

If you already have a high speed connection, but don’t think it’s fast enough you might want to test it.

There is a java-powered device on this site that allows you to test the speed of your connection. Once you’re satisfied that your service is up to snuff, go to the main page and read up on all the stuff you could be doing with your high speed connection, and get the latest high speed Internet news and views.

This site is a little more technical, but can generally answer any questions you have about your high speed connection. There is also a lot of advice on how to tweak your computer to go even faster.


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