With the advent of cloud networking and video streaming, speed and connection reliability have become the major issues in choosing an internet service provider. ISPs are the gateway to the internet, and their methods of granting access play a large role in determining the reliability and potential speed. The two fastest connection mediums are currently fiber-optic lines and wireless broadband.
Requirements for a fast connection are excessive in some of the newest games and applications. These often rely on speeds found only in densely populated areas. Cable speeds can come close to fiber optics, but they technically cannot match the speed.
Some games rely more on surf-speed, which is two-way communication, and others are more download intensive, which is an important distinction between cable and other connections.
Another area of concern is whether the provider is honest enough to give each user the bandwidth advertised in their package. AT&T, for instance, recently settled a class-action lawsuit when it was found that their DSL customers had been denied the advertised bandwidth. With customers more aware of speed than ever before, this is unlikely to be a problem in the future.
Fiber-optic and Wireless Broadband Providers
Also known as FiOS, these lines have replaced traditional copper lines in many urban areas. If you live outside a densely populated area, chances are slim you will have access.
Replacement of lines is expensive and made difficult in some weather conditions. Wireless broadband faces a similar limitation.
Only dense areas hold the number of customers necessary to support costs of placing and maintaining towers. The roofs of tall buildings provide a great vantage point for signals, which must be bounced between multiple towers to achieve line-of-sight connection with the mini-tower on a user’s home.
The speed for each is largely determined by the amount you are willing to pay. FiOS Surf speeds top out at 1.23 megabytes per second, and download speed generally goes as high as 15 Mbps. Wireless can go faster, but this amount of bandwidth is significantly more expensive and often reserved for businesses.
The highest rated providers of FiOS are national communications corporations Verizon and Comcast. Local companies may exist, but they are generally not able to compete in the FiOS market due to cost.
Wireless broadband, also known as WiMAX or fixed-station wireless, is more open to competition in dense, urban markets. WiMAX is extremely reliable due to the built-in redundancy of multiple towers. Unlike with FiOS, extreme weather is unlikely to interrupt your connection unless it damages the home receiver or multiple towers.
The is good news for people living outside areas serviced by high-speed internet. Download speeds will never match those of the high-speed providers, but surf speed comes very close.
Cox cable goes up to 1.14 Mbps, and Optimum Online can provide 1.12 Mbps. In a comparison of all ISPs by PC World readers, three cable providers took the lead over all national competitors.
These companies were ranked on download and upload speed, customer and tech support, reliability, spam blocking, and overall satisfaction. Earthlink cable, Cablevision, and Time Warner’s Road Runner took the lead in that order.
Different games rely on different types of speed, and one advertised speed may not be applicable to your favorite application. Higher speeds are possible, but most internet users are currently satisfied with cable. Local services may provide better options depending on your residence.