| HOME |

Faster Internet access is coming -- eventually

May 26, 1996


Topping the wish list of nearly every user of the World-Wide Web is the desire for faster access.

Depending on who you talk to, the future, including Internet access at blazing speeds, will mean faster access.

Eventually, anyway.

In the meantime, industry analysts predict you're likely to see plenty of hype about how such-and-such company will bring you this service and that service.

Don't hold your breath.

There are a number of factors industry watchers say -- and I agree -- may be major potholes to turning the information superhighway into the rapid-transit information system we all want so badly.

There are three ways to deliver the desired ultra-high speed and bandwidth to your home (think of bandwidth the size of the pipe that carry data from the Internet to your computer):

  • The first is your existing telephone line. A service known as ISDN (that's Integrated Service Digital Network for you techies) can deliver data speeds five to 10 times faster than current modems.

  • Sending data over existing cable television lines has the potential to be the answer to Internet users cyberprayers: Just imagine speeds 300 times faster than current modems, allowing high-quality graphics, real time video and audio.

    The cable already exists in the majority of homes in the U.S., so that part is easy.

    And cable modems are already being tested, and will be deployed later this year in tests in Akron, Ohio and Sunnyvale, Calif.

  • Satellite feeds for data transmission are possible avenues for Internet access; in fact, it's being done today for wire services and other forms of data transmission. Couldn't the same be done for the Internet?

These technologies are exciting, but can they deliver? And at a price you and I can afford?

Yes and no, Web watchers say.

ISDN has been around quite a while, and it has the potential to be the quickest performance boost for Internet access.

But its residential use and installation is the topic of many nightmarish tales told across the Internet. Not to mention the currently exorbitant fees that most phone companies charge for the service.

And the ISDN hardware isn't cheap, though the increasing popularity of the Internet, and the demand for faster data lines, could mean prices for equipment and the service may drop.

Cable modems could deliver on the promise of blazing data speeds. But the industry watchers point out that the majority of cable networks today do not have the necessary fiber optic wiring to make the technology work, especially in the more sparsely populated areas.

Also, there are no standards exist yet for cable modems. The ones out there now are still quite expensive, and there's still the problem of making the cable a two-way information conduit.

Satellite feeds are also one-way, and a system to receive user inputs would need to be developed.

The solution could be any of these technologies or maybe a mix of the three -- or even a new specification now under development.

For more information on high-speed cable Internet services now under test, visit @Home's Web siteor Time Warner's LineRunner Web site.

To learn more about ISDN, visit Microsoft's Web site and Open Communication Network's Web site.

WEB SIGHTINGS. One of the more entertaining sites I've found is called Faces.

The concept is simple. Digitized photos of celebrities have divided into three horizontal bars; with a few clicks of your mouse, you can mix and match facial parts of your favorite celebs.

For example, you can mix Christina Applegate's hair and forehead, O.J.'s eyes and George Burn's mouth and chin to create, well, someone rather odd looking.

The site even offers facial formulas. For example, George Burn's hair, O.J.'s eyes, and Burn's mouth and chin create a surprisingly close synthesis of the Star Wars character Yoda (Believe me when I say I too was skeptical, but the resemblance is there).

IN THE HOUSE. The U.S. House of Representatives has made its Internet Law Library available on the Web.

Originally a demonstration project of the Offices of the Law Revision Council and the Legislative Council, the purpose of the library is to provide easy access to the law-related resources of the Internet.

The site contains links to over 4,900 law related resources in subjects such as U.S. federal laws, state and territorial laws, international laws, laws of all jurisdictions arranged by subject, attorney and legal profession directories, law school library catalogs and directories, and reviews of law books.

The U.S. Code (up to date through early 1994) and Code of Federal Regulations can also be searched from the home page.

PRODIGY SOLD. Managers of the troubled Prodigy on-line service failed in their attempt to buy the service from its owners, Sears, Roebuck and Co. and IBM.

The May 20 issue of PC Week announced that International Wireless Inc. reached an agreement to purchase the service for less than $250 million.

International Wireless plans to expand Prodigy's subscriber base into Latin America, and continue its move from a proprietary service to an Internet-based service.

Comments and questions about this column may be sent to jbrooks@myoldkentuckyhome.com, or visit www.myoldkentuckyhome.com on the World Wide Web.

| HOME |