How Does Cable Internet Work?

How Does Cable Internet Work?

Cable internet service uses existing cable television networks to deliver data to households across the globe. There is plenty of bandwidth on the existing cables to deliver both television and internet signals to users, which make it very accessible.

Coaxial cables are also made from durable materials so they will last a long time with minimal wear. This means that the cost of upkeep is low, and that translates into moderate cost-savings for consumers.

The Details on How Cable Companies Deliver Internet Service

Cable internet uses the same coaxial cables that provide cable television to deliver broadband internet service. With around 100 million subscribers, cable internet is widely available to consumers. It is a reliable and fast connection that is suitable for all household internet uses.

An internet service provider transmits data signals through a network of coaxial cables to connected homes. The signal is received inside each connected home and transferred through a modem. A modem is a device that converts digital data into a format suitable to be used by a computer.

Any internet-capable device in your home can connect to the cable internet service through either a direct connection or on a wireless signal. A direct connection is more secure and sometimes faster than using a wifi signal.

How to Use a Cable Internet Signal in Your Home

An ethernet cable is used to connect a device directly to the modem for a direct connection. Or, an ethernet cord can be used to connect a wireless router to a modem in order to transmit a wifi signal that allows multiple devices to connect and use the internet wirelessly.

With speeds up to 1000 Mbps, cable internet is among the top choices for internet service. For families that enjoy online gaming or streaming high-definition video, cable internet is a more accessible alternative to fiber-optic.

Cable internet is very reliable. While some users may see some noticeable lag during peak times due to heavy network congestion, cable internet is generally not prone to outages or downtime like other internet services. Cable internet offers consumers a good value for the price point. Let’s take a closer look at cable internet and how it works.

What you Need to Know About Cable Internet Packages

Consumers who are looking for a reliable and fast broadband internet connection and do not have access to fiber-optic will find the best value with cable internet service providers. There may be only one option in a given area, but that should not stop consumers from shopping the available plans.

Some things to look for when shopping for a cable internet package include speed, data caps, and price. Internet speeds, also sometimes called bandwidth, determine how quickly pages load and how long it takes to download or upload files. Speed is important to the overall user experience.

Data Caps

Although most internet service providers are not quick to advertise this, data caps are pretty common among most companies. What this means for consumers is that – depending on how they use the internet – they may need to shell out more cash for additional data.

Information on data caps is in the fine print section on most cable internet provider websites. Pay close attention to the cost of additional data if you go over each month. Also, look at the number of plans available in case you need to upgrade your plan in the future.

Internet Speed

Cable internet is capable of speeds of up to 100 Mbps. But, not everyone needs the top tier speed package. Many cable internet service providers base their pricing on a combination of speed and data. Additional speed boosts may be available as an add-on for an additional price.

The speed of megabits per second (Mbps) required for most households varies depending on the number of users and type of use. A couple who uses the internet for light activity like checking emails and social media pages or reading blogs will only require speeds up to 5 Mbps.

The average household of 4-5 members will need more. If most members are using the internet for a combination of light to moderate activities, including a few hours of streaming video each day, then 50 Mbps is adequate.

Families who regularly engage in data-intensive activities like online gaming or downloading large game files may need more. Or, those regularly streaming high definition videos may benefit from the top tier packages reaching up to 100 Mbps.

Price

Most cable internet providers offer a buffet of choices. Most internet packages are based on a combination of data allowance and speed. Be careful to look for hidden costs for going over the data allowance or extra fees for speed bumps.

Another common practice among cable internet providers is to offer bundled services. Many consumers can see a cost-savings if they bundle internet service, cable television, and a home phone line. But buyers should be careful not to sign up for extra services they would not otherwise need.

Questions to Ask

Besides the obvious points that we have already covered, what else should buyers look for when shopping for a cable internet provider? Get a full picture of all of the costs and fees associated with cable internet service with a few key questions.

Special Offers

New customer specials are quite common in the cable internet provider arena. But buyers should be careful to understand the terms of the offer. For example, one popular cable internet provider advertises very low prices to new customers – with deals and discounts up to 50% off of what current customers are paying.

The catch is that they hook you with a very low price and then increase your bill year-after-year until you are paying 100% more than what you originally agreed to. This is not to say that introductory offers are a bad idea, just that consumers should know what they are signing up for.

Hardware and Installation

Find out from the get-go if you will need to purchase or rent a modem and router. Factor in the additional cost for the hardware to make sure it fits within your budget. Most cable internet companies will lease a combined modem and router unit for $10-$15 per month.

Also, find out if there will be a service charge for installation. What does the installation include? Will a technician need to run a cable in your home? Will the internet provider require that the customer does this themselves? Installation and set-up fees vary widely between providers.

Contracts and Cancellation Fees

Ask questions about the terms of service. Does the provider require a contract? What is the length of the contract? Can customers change plans within that contract? The practice of contracts or agreements varies between providers. Some are very strict and will enforce 24 or 36-month terms.

Find out upfront if there are cancellation fees for changing plans or ending agreements early. Depending on individual circumstances, it may be costly to sign up for plans that have hefty cancellation fees.

Security

Does the cable internet service provider offer any security services? Free antivirus software is a common freebie included with most cable internet plans. Free antivirus software can help keep a home network secure and can save a couple of hundred dollars per year compared to purchasing it individually.

Is Cable Internet the Best Choice?

Cable internet is a broadband service that offers reliable, high-speed internet to millions of businesses and homes. Its widespread availability and impressive speeds make cable internet an all-around good choice.

Let’s take a minute to compare how cable internet measures up to other types of internet service.

Digital Subscriber Line (DSL) internet delivered through telephone lines instead of coaxial cable wires is a lower-cost alternative that is still widely available. Cable internet outperforms DSL on bandwidth with average speeds of 50 Mbps, up to 100 Mbps. DSL internet ranges from 1-8 Mbps.

Satellite internet is more accessible to households in remote areas. But cable internet still outperforms satellite internet in reliability and speed. Satellite internet tends to be a little finicky with the weather. By comparison, cable internet is very reliable.

Fiber optic internet may be the only true competitor for cable internet. Fiber optic boasts speeds of 150 Mbps up to 500 Mbps and easily outperforms cable. But, fiber optic is not as widely available and usually requires very expensive installation and upkeep.

Overall, cable internet provides the most bang for the buck. Next to fiber-optic internet, it offers the most bandwidth. It is also one of the most reliable options. Service may get bogged down during peak times with heavy network congestion, but will not be affected by the weather.

Points to Remember

Cable internet service providers offer a menu of options. Data caps, speed limits, and bundled services allow cable internet providers to customize services at different price points. To get a good deal on cable internet services, consumers should shop all plans.

There are a lot of costs associated with cable internet service, including monthly plan fees, equipment rentals, and installation costs. Promotions and bundled services can help consumers save money on the costs of service.

Even with all of the costs associated with cable internet service, it is still considered a good value for the money by most consumers. The speeds available with cable internet are adequate for almost every household. It can support multiple users engaging in high-bandwidth activities without lagging or crashing.

Brett Gordon
 

Brett is the founder and editor-in-chief of GetInternet. Having clocked tons of time in the broadband industry, today, he’s dedicated to positioning GetInternet as a prime resource to simplify the broadband shopping experience.