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Technology and Equipment FAQ
What's the current status of cable modem and DSL availability?

In my opinion, we are still plagued by the gap between the promise and the reality of broadband to the home. There are many factors affecting whether you or your telecommuting employees can get - and use - this high-speed connection, such as:

For cable modems:

  • Does your local cable provider offer it yet?
  • If so, is it offered on YOUR street or in YOUR building?
  • If so, how many of your neighbors are also using it, and how does that affect your actual access speed?
  • Does your cable provider offer two-way cable connectivity, or is it just downloading via cable and uploading back to the Internet by standard telephone line? And if so, will the lower return speed affect your productivity? (Yes, that IS a possibility; not every cable system offers two-way access to the Internet.)

For DSL:

  • Does your local carrier offer it yet - and if not, does one of the competitive local exchange carriers such as Rhythms, Covad, or Northpoint offer it?
  • What type or types of DSL are offered? (For a good overview on DSL technology visit the ADSL Forum)
  • Bearing in mind that the term "DSL" is an abbreviated version of "ADSL" - where the "A" stands for "asynchronous" - will it matter to you if the upload speed is much slower than the download speed for your remote workers?
  • Even if DSL, in whatever variety, is offered in your telecommuters' neighborhoods, how far away do they live from their local central office (telephone switch)? DSL, like ISDN, has a distance limitation; the further away you are the weaker the signal.

I'm not trying to throw stones at the carriers, but trying instead to help you understand how fragile and uneven the deployment of these technologies are. Both DSL and cable modems are great - people swear by them instead of swearing at standard analog dial-up lines (and occasionally at ISDN). But if you're an employer trying to make them part of your remote-work solution, it is highly unlikely that you will be able to find one broadband solution that is available to all your remote workers. This picture is changing quickly for the better - but in the meantime, be prepared for some possible frustration.

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