Internet subscribers in America have a wealth of options when it comes to choosing their service provider, and Comcast is far from being the only company connecting people to the Internet. Services differ between companies, and people can choose the plan that best suits their needs. Exactly which alternatives people have depends on their area, however.
Comcast is a cable Internet provider -- it uses the coaxial cables that deliver data to a home's television sets to transmit Internet data to its computers as well. Users who want a cable service but do not want to subscribe to Comcast can choose among various other companies depending on what is available in their area. Some cable companies are now switching to a newer form of cable Internet service called fiber optics, which uses glass filaments to transmit data at light speed. As of June 2011, fiber optic Internet is the fastest type of connection, but it is not yet available in all areas.
Another Internet option is digital subscriber line service. DSL uses a home's landline phone wiring to connect computers to the Internet, so DSL service providers tend to be phone companies as well. Like cable customers, DSL customers can choose a service provider depending on what is available in their area. Some DSL providers offer freestanding DSL, which can connect computers to the Internet over a phone line that is out of service. Standard DSL requires a functioning landline.
In areas where neither cable nor DSL is available, some customers choose satellite Internet. This is often more expensive than other Internet options, but in some remote parts of the country or more recent developments, it may be the only high-speed option. Some satellite companies serve all 50 states, while others only serve the 48 contiguous states; a few companies also serve Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and parts of Canada. Satellite Internet is slightly slower and less reliable than cable.
A final alternative to Comcast is dial-up service. Dial-up Internet is not broadband, meaning it is much slower than other services and does not provide a continuous connection -- users must connect and disconnect each time they want to use the Internet, and they are billed by the minute. Dial-up uses a building's landline, like DSL, but unlike DSL, it occupies the line's entire bandwidth, so users cannot connect to the Internet and receive phone calls simultaneously. Dial-up is usually cheaper than broadband Internet and is available in all areas.
- HighSpeedInternet.com: Cable Internet Service Providers
- HighSpeedInternet.com: DSL Internet Service Providers
- HighSpeedInternet.com: Satellite Internet Service Providers
- HighSpeedInternet.com: Dial-Up Internet Service Providers
- ISPs Compared: Broadband Internet Service Lookup
- Broadband.gov: Types of Broadband Connections
- John Foxx/Stockbyte/Getty Images