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A broadband Internet connection is made possible through the use of a cable modem that is designed to operate over cable TV lines. Just as DSL utilizes telephone lines to transmit data, cable Internet connection works by using TV channel space for data transmission: certain channels are used for downstream transmission and other channels for upstream transmission.

Because the coaxial cable used by cable TV provides much greater bandwidth than telephone lines, a cable Internet modem can be used to achieve extremely fast access to the Web. In terms of theoretical peak performance, cable technology supports up to 100Mbps of bandwidth, whereas most forms of DSL cannot reach beyond 50 Mbps.

Similarly to DSL technology, though, cable technology is based on shared bandwidth, with certain factors impeding a user’s download speed. Foremost, with shared bandwidth the speed fluctuates depending on the number of subscribers on the network; the more bogged down the network, the slower the speeds. In other words, if many people in your business community access the Internet simultaneously, you’ll notice that cable modem services will slow down significantly. For that reason alone, cable providers will never offer QoS (Quality of Service) or SLA (Service Level Agreement) guarantees as a business practice, and will often use phrases like “with speeds up to…” instead of publishing more precise and numerical speed information.

Although both cable modem and DSL performance vary from one minute to the next depending on the pattern of use and traffic congestion on the Internet, the important thing to note about cable Internet is that when it comes to broadband, very few similar ‘entry-level’ products being sold by LECs (Local Exchange Carriers) can rival the speed and cost-savings offered by cable companies. This, combined with the fact that millions of businesses are already wired for cable TV, has made cable Internet service a viable alternative and true contender to DSL technology.