Monday, July 17, 1995

No free ride when surfing the Internet

 (Excerpt from the Fresno Bee article "No free ride when surfing the Internet" by Benjamin Seto, July 17 1995)

...Daniel Birchall, a Burlington, N.J.-based consultant specializing in the Internet, offered these tips on choosing a service:

Connectivity. Find the provider with the fastest and most-direct access to the Internet. More bandwidth - the capacity level of data travel - is a key for efficiently surfing the Net.

Most providers have at least one "T1" line - the equivalent of 24 phone lines.

"A good provider would have two or three T1 lines," said Birchall. "Each line should go to a different backbone of the Internet so if one network goes down, the whole ISP [Internet service provider] won't be affected."

Modem radio. Some companies might not disclose this information, but Birchall said it is worth finding out the provider's ratio of users to modems.

Each caller is connected to a modem that routes the user on his or her way to the Internet. As more users pile onto a modem, the access becomes slower as the modem deals with the heavier load.

The industry standard is about 10 users per modem, or sometimes as high as 12-to-1. Some Fresno providers say they are committed to an 8-to-1 ratio.

Birchall said a user can tell whether a service could be hampered by a high user-modem ratio by hints such as busy signals or continuous rings with no answer.

"Any degradation in service is an indication that the ISP [Internet service provider] is oversold or under-supported."

Billing. Many Internet service providers are following the trend of offering flat rates and unlimited hours on the Internet. While that sounds attractive, Birchall offers a word of caution.

"It's unlimited hours, but that's only when they can get on," he said, adding that providers offering a chunk of Internet access up front and per-hour fees thereafter are usually the ones generating the revenue needed to support better service.

Technical Support. Surfing the Net can get harried if you catch a big wave and crash. So technical support is an important service to look for from Internet service providers.

Some providers offer 24-hour support, but Birchall said that doesn't mean much if only one person is handling all the calls.

Other companies are beginning to offer help on-line, but Birchall noted: "If you're having trouble getting on-line in the first place, you'll have no use for it."

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