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COMMENTARY

Online Results Are In -- We Road Test
Oceanic's Road Runner and GTE's ADSL


By Rob Kay & Jeff Bloom

Those of you who log onto the Internet with dial up modems know that the bane of online existence is the "World Wide Wait". While the standard 56 kbps (kbps is the common acronym for bits per second) modems are fine for sending e-mail or doing a moderate amount of web surfing, many of you will need and want a faster Internet connection.

In the past year or so several new technologies have become available in the Aloha State that provide speedy Internet connections that should satisfy even the most bandwidth-craven customers. Recently we had the opportunity to test these technologies from GTE and Oceanic. We’d like to report what we’ve found.


ADSL

ADSL is a service that operates over GTE’s network but is resold by local Internet Service Providers (ISPs) such as LavaNet, Pacific Information Exchange and nearly a dozen other companies on Maui and Oahu. Short for asymmetrical digital subscriber line, this technology lets you access the Internet at speeds at least 50 times greater than you get with a 28.8 Kbps modem. The beauty of ADSL is that it utilizes the existing wire that GTE has in place in your home or office. Except for a special modem and a networking card that pops inside your computer, you don’t need any other gadgetry.

Getting Set Up

Getting started with ADSL was fairly painless. In our case, the ISP that teamed up with GTE to provide our service was Pacific Global, a Maui -based company with offices in Honolulu as well. A GTE technician showed up at the home office and spent less than an hour installing the line, the modem and connecting the computer. We then got on the phone with a representative from Pacific Global, who helped us properly configure the software for the computer. There were few hiccups in the beginning but that is par for the course with any new technology. After a few days the ADSL service ran with no problems and was extremely fast. Those who experience ADSL are not likely to ever want to return to their regular dial up modems. The speed was in fact nearly indistinguishable from the "T1" connection that runs at our office.

Other advantages are that you can leave your machine on all the time if you like, so you don't have to dial each time you want to surf the Web. Unlike a regular dial up modem you can also use the phone at the same time you're online.

The cost for set up was a one time charge of $138 that was split between GTE and Pacific Global. Monthly charges seem to vary widely between the various ISPs. Some will also charge you more if you’re a business user than for residential service. For example Pacific Information Exchange fees start at $77 per month for residential users and $150 per month for business users for exactly the same service. (Go figure!) LavaNet charges around $90 per month for either business or residential use. Pacific Global, ISP we dealt with charges $150 per month for high capacity business or residential services.

Local prices contrast sharply to the Mainland which to no one’s surprise, is a lot cheaper. For example, Pacific Bell in California offers ADSL service and Internet access packages that start as little as $49 per month. Competition is always healthy and tends to bring down prices.


Road Testing Road Runner

Road Runner is the name for Oceanic cable modem service which enables you to hook up your PC to a local cable TV line. Because the coaxial cable used by cable TV provides much greater bandwidth than telephone lines, a cable modem can be used to achieve extremely fast access to the World Wide Web. The cable modem can connect you to the net at speeds that are more or less equal to GTE’s ADSL technology. Because cable seems to be in just about everyone’s home nowadays, this technology is designed more for residential rather than business use. Approximately 10,000 people in Hawaii subscribe to this service and interest in this technology is so great that those who want an installation often have to wait a month or more just to get an appointment.

The best news about Road Runner is the pricing. If you’ve already got cable service, tack on another $40 per month to your existing service or $50 if you’re not a cable user. Road Runner also has a $80 service for business users. (A one time $100 set up fee is also charged.)

We found the installation of this service a no-brainer. Someone from Oceanic shows up at your residence, connects the cable and modem to your computer and voila, an hour or so later you’re online. Along with the Internet connectivity Oceanic also provides national and local content, e-mail, newsgroups, personal web page hosting and a game server. Good tech support is also now available—a vast improvement on the way things used to be when the service was rolled out originally. What you don’t get with Road Runner (and this is true with the ADSL providers as well) is dial up access from the Mainland. This means you have to have to purchase an extra dial up account from another ISP if you travel a lot. (Whoops, add an extra $20 a month!)

All in all we thought Road Runner to be a very good deal. In all honesty we could not discern any difference between Road Runner and the ADSL service we tested from GTE. When you consider the pricing—as low as $40 vs. $77 for the least expensive flavor of ADSL, Road Runner is very competitive.


In Conclusion…

Both ADSL and Road Runner offer fast, dependable Internet connectivity. Both technologies can be used by business or residential users and both can be networked so that multiple users can make use of the service at the same time.

Which should you opt for?

If you’re looking at a high speed hook up at home and already have a cable setup, it’s less expensive to go the Road Runner route. If you’re at the office you probably don’t have cable so by default you’ll end up going with ADSL.

One last note. It makes sense to leave your computer on all the time if you have a cable modem or ADSL setup. This leaves you tempting bait for a hacker who might want to read your files. What do you do to protect yourself?

For home customers, the easiest solution is to ensure that you are not running any file or printer sharing services. For Windows 95/98, an easy way to check is to go into Control Panel/Networks, click on the File and Print sharing button and ensure both check boxes are turned off. If you’re not careful, it’s very easy for an Internet intruder to access your personal files without your even knowing!

For business customers, Earl Ford, President of Honolulu-based Pacific Interactive, recommends purchasing a "firewall solution" to keep your data away from prying eyes. There are many affordable choices, both software and hardware that can protect your network from unwanted visitors. In an office situation the least expensive way to do this by using Microsoft BackOffice which has a built in firewall. For home offices or smaller businesses there are software solutions starting at around $300.

Rob Kay is a Honolulu-based public relations practitioner who specializes in technology companies. He can be reached at rkay@pactechcom.com or 539-3627. Jeff Bloom is the founder of Computer Training Academy/Network Resource Center, a computer educational school and technology solution provider also based in Honolulu. His contact is jeffb@cta.net or 839-1200. Suggestions for column topics are welcomed.

Pacific Business News - Friday April 23, 1999

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