For all but the smallest of home-based travel agencies, broadband
Internet service offers a significant competitive advantage over
conventional dial-up connections.
Even if you only have basic service, you’ll be able to cruise
the Web at high speeds (generally 10 to 30 times faster than
dial-up 56K service). And in regions where it’s still a novelty,
first-time users will notice that browsing through Web sites feels
like turning the pages of a book it’s that fast.
Moreover, many broadband providers are charging a single rate
for broadband connection, regardless of how many PCs or Macs
(within reason) are hooked in. So, with rates as low as $40 a
month, some agencies may find that broadband actually reduces their
monthly Internet bill.
Broadband may also provide:
Phone Bill Savings
A number of Internet-based telephone companies, including
Packet8 and Vonage, are slashing costs by routing local and
long-distance calls over the Internet rather than over conventional
Packet8, one of the least expensive, offers unlimited calling
throughout the United States and Canada for $19.95 a month.
Its international calling rates are also extremely competitive
and the sound quality is equivalent to that of a cell phone.
To get started, you’ll need a router to share your broadband
connection between your phone and your computer. They cost $50 to
$100 and can be obtained from Netgear, Linksys or D-Link.
You’ll also need a terminal adapter, a small device that Packet8
provides free, to plug into your phone.
The downside is that the service works only with one phone. But
if you make all or most of your long-distance calls from your desk,
signing up for this kind of service may be a no-brainer.
Conferencing for Free
Web conferencing centers such as Paltalk and Genesys invite
consumers and businesses to try their services for free, hoping
that satisfied customers eventually will use their premium
In the meantime, however, you’ll be able to hold perfectly
acceptable audio/video conferences, at no charge, with clients or
associates around the world.
Paltalk is one of the easiest to use. Getting hooked up involves
little more than downloading the free Paltalk software and
responding to a few prompts from its installation wizard.
Once the software configures your computer speakers and
microphones (mikes start at about $10 at Wal-Mart), you’re good to
At first, you’ll probably want to click into existing chatrooms
to get a feel for things. But once you’re comfortable with the
operation, you’ll want to create your own room, which is as easy as
clicking “Groups,” “Admin” and “Setup/Maintain Your Own Permanent
After responding to a few more prompts, you’ll have your own
free conference room on the Web and can even set up password-only
Broadband can allow you to update everyone involved in a project
without a lot of extra effort.
For example, if an agency is using an e-mail program like
Eudora, computers hooked into the broadband connection can receive
simultaneous, continuous updates.
Plus, broadband makes it easy to have Wi-Fi, or wireless,
connections to laptops, PDAs and other computerized devices.
The router that you bought for Internet phone service can also
be used for wireless Internet access. All you’ll need is a wireless
adapter, which costs about $50, for each device linked to the
A 2002 study for the International Telework Associa-tion &
Council, conducted by Joan H. Pratt Associates, found that
employees using a broadband service increased their productivity by
33 percent in comparison to those using a dial-up service.
“Teleworking employees work more business hours and after-hours
time at home without increasing their total work hours,” Pratt
International Telework Association & Council:
Joan H. Pratt Associates: www.joanpratt.com
If you’re interested in broadband, the clear choice is cable or
If neither service is available or if you’d like high-speed
access in an RV or other mobile vehicle you may want to consider
satellite, but startup costs are a little pricey.
Starband (www.starband.com) charges $699 for the satellite
hardware and a $50 monthly subscription fee.
Competitor DirecPC (www.direcpc.com) charges $479 for the
hardware and $59 a month.
Of the two major contenders, cable is often easiest to activate.
At speeds as much as 50 times faster than a 56K modem, high-speed
cable is available in select markets, generally through local cable
Linking up involves little more than hooking a cable modem to
Unfortunately, the downside is that speeds can vary during
high-usage periods. The more people using the system, the slower
your access will be.
Consistent speed is the primary advantage of DSL (digital
subscriber line), the service offered by local and long-distance
telephone companies. DSL speed depends on your proximity to the
For example, DSL Forum says you should get downloads of as much
as 8,000K if you’re less than 12,000 feet away; while 256K is the
best you can expect at more than 20,000 feet. (Your phone company
should be able to give you this information.)
Also, be forewarned: DSL installations can be tricky.
If you’re interested, begin by sizing up the competition. Get a
list of your community’s DSL providers at www.dslreports.com. And
be sure to seek out DSL service that is live 24/7. If you’re paying
for DSL, you shouldn’t settle for a limited connection.
Also, you’ll want to “keep a clean machine.” Translation: The
fewer additional appliances plugged into the same surge protector
as your DSL modem, the better. Sometimes an appliance sharing a
surge protector with a poorly shielded DSL cable modem can degrade
Whether you choose cable or DSL, put the tech support department
through its paces before you sign. Smaller, eager-to-please cable
or DSL providers sometimes will run customer service circles around
their monolithic counterparts.
And how would you know? Ask around. Most people will quickly
warn you off a company that they wish they had avoided too.
A final note: Be aware that broadband service keeps your
computer continuously linked to your provider’s system, giving
Internet hackers all the time in the world to crack into your
You can frustrate all but the most hyper-diligent by adding
security protection like Zone Alarm (www.zonelabs.com), Norton
Personal Firewall (www.symantec.com/ product) or Black Ice Defender
(http://blac kice.iss.net). "