Installment 1 of 3 - InternetRight now, our family is grappling with the questions and logistics of going all Internet. That is, what if we got rid of phone and replaced it with Internet? (That one's pretty easy because we already have digital phone service, but has nuances as you'll see.) What if we got rid of our Cable TV service, can we watch our shows solely on the Internet?
We are looking to reduce our bills. We are sick of the game where you pay $140 a month for all 3, and after a year it jumps up to $210 - unless you call and threaten to disconnect, in which case they are authorized to offer you this deal to keep you - for another year. Here's what we have found, and I think you'll agree there are some eye-openers. My mother once (yeah, once!) said, "If it sounds too good to be true, it is."
InternetFirst of all, we are considering putting a lot more data through the Internet. However, I have a sneaking suspicion (U-Verse) Cable TV services use the same wire, and thus have bandwidth restrictions anyhow. The best Internet service available in our area is 18 Mbps for $62/month (all taxes and fees, unbundled, from AT&T), or comparable from Xfinity, etc. Our experience the past year with streaming video shows us we should be fine doing all our stuff this way.
U-Verse gives us a nice, dedicated line to our house. Comcast Xfinity was fast when we had it, but we had frequent outages, lots of service tech reliability problems, and the line is shared with the block, so if neighbors were using it heavily, our service degraded.
This is very important when looking at doing all things online. Also, you have to look at download speeds vs. upload speeds. Primarily you are interested in download speeds - although I do send a lot of files for work, so upload is also important to me.
Your Own NetworkDon't forget, an important piece of the pie for how fast is your connection, is the equipment you rent, buy or own in your home. I had an old Linksys wireless router that only did 802.11g, which is around 10Mbps. This was replaced with a D-Link dual-band (that's important) 802.11n router, that does somewhere around 250Mbps - as you can see, a lot faster. But be careful! The network port on the router is Gigabit (1000Mbps). The cheaper WiFi routers may have 100Mbps Ethernet ports. All WiFi routers must plug into a wire at some point, so you don't want that to be a bottleneck.
Now I have switches on my network, and the U-Verse WiFi router that is the gateway to the Internet. But I wanted to control my own network with better levels of control, plus N speeds, and dual-band. The dual-band means it broadcasts on 2 frequencies: 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz, so it actually has 2 wireless networks - plus optional Guest network. I can put some devices on one, and some on the other, and thus segregate the WiFi traffic. I put the Set Top Boxes (see the next installment of this article) on the 5 GHz, and mobile devices on the 2.4 GHz. Some of this was hardware limitations, as the iPhones don't communicate WiFi on 5 GHz (probably to save power).
All of my computers are on Gigabit - the older ones I had to buy cards ($5-$10 each) to do this, but all the newer ones and the Intel Macs came with Gigabit network adapters. Gigabit switches with 8 ports, around $25-$30. D-Link WiFi router, around $90. Not expensive at all to get Gigabit network with fast WiFi.