The term "Internet connectivity" refers to the way people are hooked up to the Internet, and may include dial-up telephone lines, always-on broadband connections, and wireless devices. Among these, wireless access to the Internet is the newest and, as of the early 2000s, had only reached a small group of users. Broadband connections, including DSL (digital subscriber line), ADSL (asymmetrical DSL), and cable modems, were becoming more widespread, but still represented a small percentage of Internet users. A study by Nielsen/NetRatings covering the year 2000 found that more than 85 percent of home-based users connected to the Internet with ordinary telephone modems ranging from 28.8 Kbps (thousands of bits per second) to 56 Kbps. Only 6.4 percent had high-speed Internet access, while 8.3 percent were still using 14.4 Kbps telephone modems.
Since the early days of the Internet, connectivity for the typical user has improved markedly by offering greater speeds for data transmission and wider bandwidth to accommodate special services such as audio and video. In the consumer market, the first improvements were made in dial-up telephone connections, with modems increasing in speed from 14.4 Kbps to 56 Kbps. With the growth in popularity of the World Wide Web and its ever expanding stock of multimedia content, the need for more bandwidth and higher transmission speeds created new demand in households and small businesses for broadband alternatives, which until that time were common only in large corporations, universities, and government agencies.
Wired Broadband Wired broadband essentially means there is a physical connection to a physical location (a home or business) through a cable. There are three main types of wired broadband connections for consumer or residential use: DSL, coaxial cable, and fiber. DSL uses traditional copper wire telephone lines. Cable television companies traditionally provide service over coaxial cables. Fiber systems are comprised of glass fiber strands over which optical (light) signals are sent. (Other options for wired broadband include T1 or T3 lines and Broadband over Power Lines (BPL)). With the use of a router, all wired technologies can also provide a Wi-Fi network within the home or business.
DSL is a wired transmission that uses traditional copper telephone lines already installed to homes and businesses. Availability and speed of DSL service may depend on the distance from a home or business to the closest broadband-equipped telephone company central office or telephone exchange.
Cable television companies provide broadband using the same coaxial cables that deliver pictures and sound to your TV set. A cable modem is an external device that normally has two connections: one to the cable wall outlet, the other to a computer. Cable Internet is usually faster than DSL.
Fiber optic technology converts electrical signals to light pulses (on/off) and sends the light pulses through transparent glass fibers about the diameter of a human hair. There is less signal loss or degradation with fiber optic technology than conventional copper wires or coaxial cables. Fiber transmits data at speeds far exceeding current DSL or cable modem speeds.