Getting started with ADSL

Last year, I helped my neighbour to get a PC and a Mac working with AOL and an ADSL connection. It wasn’t straightforward, hence the reasons for writing about it on this blog, and I’ve had more than one request for help on the subject since.

My Macintosh knowledge is patchy, at best, and I certainly don’t have time to provide PC support for everyone (the rules for comments on this blog point out that I’ll help if I can but I have a day job too); however one lady was particularly stuck as she was trying to negotiate the technical minefield of understanding here options for moving from a dial-up AOL connection to broadband. Yes, it might be straightforward to a techie, but I’ve been playing with PCs for 18 years, have a Computer Studies degree and this is my 12th year as an IT professional, yet I still needed advice from my friends on how it all works when my wife campaigned to get BT to upgrade our local telephone exchange and remove the final hurdle to our broadband access (we were one of the first ADSL-connected households after the Olney exchange was finally upgraded in the Spring of 2003).

With all this in mind, I thought I’d post some information for anyone who is trying to “get broadband”. At the time of writing, in the UK, a broadband Internet connection generally means cable (e.g. NTL/Telewest), or ADSL (from a telecommunications company like BT, usually resold through an Internet service provider – I use PlusNet and I know people who are extremely happy with both Nildram and clara.net). I don’t know much about cable broadband, but for ADSL users there is an excellent ADSL guide, including a beginners guide/how it works, availability/demand tracking information and a speed test.

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