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CABLE CONNECTIVITY OPTION
Speed and other features
The speed of cable Internet service can be quite impressive - up to a few megabits per second for download (equivalent to several 'T-1's). Most home users will never need the full capacity, but having this option is actually quite nice, especially when downloading multimedia and software.
However, one drawback of cable connectivity is that bandwidth is shared among all subscribers in your neighborhood. Thus, on a busy Friday night you will only get a fraction of the maximum theoretical throughput (mind you that this "fraction" may still be 10-20 faster than the speed of a dialup connection). In the past few years, cable companies have managed to get this under control using effective traffic shaping techniques and limiting bandwidth to individual users. Normally, you shouldn't notice too much of a difference between "peak" and "off-peak" hours.
Second, cable connectivity is not symmetric - your uploads will be significantly slower than your downloads. While most users will not ever notice this limitation, if you are a business user, SDSL may be a better bet. Read our DSL article for explanations.
Besides the sheer speed, cable offers another great advantage over dialup - it's always on. This means you don't have to "dial up" or "connect" when you boot your computer.
To be able to use cable Internet connection, you'll need a cable modem and a network card. Most cable companies will provide the modem for you free of charge (or, rather, its cost is included in the price). Some require you to choose between renting or buying the device.
The second requirement is a network (Ethernet) card. Practically all modern computers come with one built in, but if by any chance you don't have a card, a new one will set you back between $20 and $50.
Self-installation is possible if your apartment or house already has TV cable service. Otherwise, expect a visit from a company technician first.
Prices depend on whether you are subscribing to a service offered by your "regular" cable company or one offered by a competitive provider, and also whether or not you are a cable subscriber (in the original, "TV" sense). With all that said, a typical cable internet-only offering in the U.S. is between $30 and $50 per month.