Although this isn’t going to be an “all-inclusive” article about service providers, modems and routers, there will be information you may find helpful as you decide what is the best Internet provider for you and the equipment they require.
Service providers vary from region to region. In our area, we have three popular Internet Service Providers (ISP) and they are: Comcast, CenturyLink and Rise Broadband. Each one of these providers also requires different equipment in order to use their service.
In its simplest term, the difference between a “modem” and a “router,” is a modem is a device that provides access to the Internet and a router provides access for wired and wireless connections to the modem. This is also called your local network. In many cases, you can have a modem and a router in the same box.
Comcast uses what’s called a “cable modem” and CenturyLink uses a DSL modem. I recommend you use the devices that Comcast and CenturyLink provide. Rise Broadband provides a small white box that acts like a modem and you can connect it directly to your computer for Internet access, but if you want to have a wireless network or connect more than one computer via Ethernet cables, then you will also need a router. They also install a dish on top of your home. This dish needs to have a direct line-of-sight to the tower for good connectivity.
If you choose to go with Comcast, they will come to your home and install their modem for you. They will need to drill a hole in your wall or foundation if your home does not have an existing hole or access to outside. After installation, you can connect a router to the Comcast modem to give you more wired ports, or you can use their modem’s internal router for your wireless connections.
CenturyLink is similar in that they will install your line from the telephone pole to the home, but if you have them run the line from the box on the outside of the house to the inside, it will cost you extra money. It is possible for you to do it yourself or most computer people can do it for you for less money than what CenturyLink charges. In some cases, the independent CenturyLink installer will help you set up and configure your modem/router once everything is installed. I have found that this largely depends on the generosity of the installer. Some do and some don’t. Specific instructions come with the DSL modem or your computer person can help you get it set up. CenturyLink’s modem comes with several wired ports and it also comes with an internal router to set up your wireless network.
Rise Broadband, formerly Digis, formerly Wireless Beehive, comes with a little box where you can connect it directly to your computer. It only allows for one connection. If you want more, you will need to add a router. You will need to contact Rise Broadband to have them authorize your new router, as it will not work until you do so. Also, if you are a previous customer of Digis or Wireless Beehive, I advise you to contact Rise Broadband and have them replace the box that was supplied to you with the newest one. If your box is black in color, it is very old and can have negative consequences with your connectivity. You should also have them check the radio transmitter in your dish and also the line-of-sight to be certain your dish has direct visibility to the tower. They typically offer these changes for free as part of their services.
Regardless of who you use, if you experience problems with your connectivity, first make certain everything is plugged in tightly. If it is really windy or stormy outside, you can call your service provider to see if there is an outage in your area. Do this before you begin monkeying with your equipment. If there is no outage, you can unplug your modem/router for at least two minutes and then plug it back in. Allow it time to cycle through all of the modes and when all the lights are lit, check your connection. Doing this will not reset your access channel ID and password.
There is a reset button located on each modem/router and if you press this in and hold it for 30 seconds or more, it will reset your channel ID and passphrase to the original one that came with your modem/router. Usually, the original channel ID and passphrase can be found located on the outside of the modem/router. After you reset your modem/router, you will need to change all your devices to the correct channel ID and passphase.
Because not all services from these providers are available for all areas, you will need to go to their respective websites or call them directly and see if your physical address is available for their service.
If you live in an older part of the city, such as the southern end, the lines in the ground have not been updated and therefore, your download and upload speeds will be limited. This is the case with CenturyLink, but not for Comcast or Rise Broadband.
Even though I try to give you the most accurate information, with technology changing so quickly, some of this information may be outdated. To get the latest information from these service providers, either call them or visit their website.
For 15 years, Scott Lindsay has helped tens of thousands of people better their skills, publishing more than 400 articles about Apple and Microsoft software, the computer and the Internet. You can reach Scott for comments or questions at ScottLindsay@live.com.