Broadband basics
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Date: 24 June, 2004

A broadband modem

'There is no need to worry about the amount of time you spend online.'

Ray Hatley explains what broadband is and who can get it. He then offers his top 10 websites with content specifically for broadband users

The word 'broadband' has been bandied around a lot over the past year or so, but what is it and what does it do?

Broadband refers to services that provide high-speed communications, usually to access the internet. Broadband lets you transfer large amounts of data - such as email attachments, video or digital music - far more quickly than using a standard modem and phone line or even Integrated Services Digital Network (ISDN).

Broadband is also permanently connected, so you don't need to waste time dialling up, and with fixed monthly tariffs, there is no need to worry about the amount of time you spend online. You can also make ordinary phone calls or use the fax machine whilst you're online without needing a second line.

The combination of speed, a permanent connection and interactivity have the potential to transform the way we live, learn, work and communicate.


Internet pages, containing large files, pictures or multimedia packages, can be downloaded in seconds.

Large companies have been using high-speed services for years, but the development of cheaper technologies means broadband is now an affordable option for homes and smaller businesses, making it possible for them to compete in today's global marketplace.

There are two main ways to sign up for broadband - via Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line (ADSL) technology, which runs over your existing phone line, or via cable modem.

The first step to ADSL (Broadband) is to find out if it is available in your area, which will depend on how far from the telephone exchange you are and what quality of telephone line you have to your premises.

You can check your availability via


If you can receive broadband, there is a full selection of service providers listed on the website from which you will need to select the one that will best fulfil your needs.

If you live outside the current 'catchment' area for ADSL, you can still
register your interest via your chosen service provider. Each telephone exchange has a trigger level of demand that is must reach to make it viable for upgrading.

Although there will be some areas where the demand for Broadband does not balance with the cost of upgrading the exchange, particularly in more rural areas, alternative technical and commercial solutions are being investigated.

Top 10 sites with content for broadband users

Ray Hatley is the editor of and the broadband correspondent for the Brighton Evening Argus newspaper

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