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July 12, 2001
High-Speed Internet Connections Give Freelancers More Freedom
By Sherril Steele-Carlin

Many freelancers now make most, if not all, their living on the Internet. They look for speed, speed, speed, in their Internet connections, because the faster they can access information, the quicker they can turn around projects. A recent article at Business Week says, "Small companies, including home-based businesses, are hungry for high-speed Internet access, but their chances of getting a place at the broadband table are fairly slim this year."

Up until now, home freelancers have really had only two options in high-speed broadband Internet access - DSL, or a cable modem. The problem with these two options is that in many areas, especially rural areas, they simply aren't available. For much work on the Internet, a 56K modem really won't cut it, so what's a freelancer to do? Fortunately, there are some options available to those who can't connect to more traditional broadband. The bad news is that some of them are expensive and unreliable. The good news is they exist, and can help the home freelancer access information quickly and effectively.

The first alternative is probably the most accessible to those who can't connect to DSL and cable modems. ISDN stands for Integrated Services Digital Network. It's faster than your 56K modem, but not as fast as DSL or cable modems. It's also supported by nearly all ISPs in the country, making it one of the most accessible high-speed options. The downsides are hefty, though. Even though it's not as fast as cable and DSL, it's usually more expensive. It usually costs between $50 and $100 per month, and there are often surcharges if you use it more than your allotted time per month.

Even with all the negatives, ISDN could be the only alternative available to freelancers who aren't close enough to phone company buildings to connect to DSL. ISDN may not be much faster than a modem, but it does "clean up" the signal coming from your phone lines, which alone can enhance your connection speeds. In his article "Investigate ISDN" on ZDNet, author Gregg Keizer says, "...for small businesses outside the reach of cable and DSL, it's the most reliable alternative under $200 a month."

The next alternative is using two modems via MultiLink. The theory is that if you link up two modems on two phone lines, you can double the speed of your connection, getting speeds up to 100K for multi users in your business. The problem with MultiLink is that only a few ISPs support it. In a search of 9,700 service providers, only 54 were found to support the MultiLink format. The cost of two phone lines used only for the Internet may be prohibitive for many small businesses and freelancers, too. There's also a new service called MidPoint, which uses "Modem Teaming." It's the same idea as MultiLink, but doesn't need to be supported by your ISP. MultiLink costs $14 a month for up to five users. More information can be found at http://www.midcore.com/connteam.htm. Keizer isn't that excited about this type of "cobbling together" high-speed bandwidth. He says "tying together a pair of modems to boost bandwidth is an absurd idea for all but the smallest businesses (read: sole proprietor) that use the Web only for e-mail, an occasional file transfer, and a tiny bit of online research/surfing."

One other alternative for freelancers looking for more bandwidth is a satellite dish. Many freelancers may already have a dish for their TV reception. That same dish may provide Internet connectivity, too. There are two major suppliers of satellite connections, DirecPC http://www.direcpc.com/, and StarBand http://www.starband.com/. As with other alternatives, satellites also have their own set of problems. Many users complain of wide fluctuations in bandwidth. You're sharing your connection with thousands of other users, so during peak times, your connection could be as slow as a modem. Costs for hardware can run as high as $700, and monthly connectivity can run anywhere from $35 to $70 per month. Keizer says of satellite service "...small businesses with no other broadband choices, particularly firms in remote rural or small town locales where DSL, cable, and ISDN are as far fetched as flying cars, could consider satellite, but only as a last resort."

Freelancers do have alternatives when they look into broadband, high-speed Net access. They just need to assess their needs, and decide what they are willing to pay for that access, and how much they will really use faster connectivity.

Sherril Steele-Carlin is a full-time freelance writer from Reno, Nevada. She's published numerous articles in print and online publications. She's also the author of the new e-book "How to get a Life by Living and Working in a National Park." http://www.dreamjobstogo.com/titles/dltg0002.html?10402 Visit her web site at http://www.powernet.net/~carlin.

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