You will need either a USB network adapter, or a built-in Ethernet adapter, or an add-in Ethernet network card, a cable modem (rental or purchase), cable from the network adapter to the wall connection (the installer makes this and it’s typically included in the installation deal), and, sometimes, a new cable run in your house (some cable companies may refer you to someone who can run cable through your walls or attic).
Cable companies are moving to self-install kit when they can, and giving you a lower install price — or free — to use the kit.
Some cable companies require you to have cable TV service in order to get cable Internet service. Others may charge a lower monthly rate if you are a cable TV customer. Cox High Speed Internet in Baton Rouge currently does not require that you have cable TV service in order to get cable Internet service, but has a higher service price for cable Internet customers who are not cable TV customers.
Do I need an ISP, too?
Cable Internet access works through your regular cable line. You do not need a separate ISP to use a cable modem. Prior to making the service available in a subdivision, the cable company puts filters in all the connections in the cable box. This is done to keep noise out of your television pictures.
To install cable service at your house, they install a splitter in the cable line at your house. From the splitter, they install the filter on the output cable going to your TV’s. They run a straight line from the initial splitter to your cable modem site. If necessary based on location, they may need to run a cable to the computer.
Then, the installer takes out the filter in the cable box. He plugs in the modem and calls in to the office to provide them with the cable modem’s identifying numbers. Upon authorization at the office, the cable modem begins loading its configuration data and programming.
Meanwhile, the installer runs the setup software (including installation of a customized version of Internet Explorer). Alternatively, you can set up the connection manually and stay with the regular, released versions of IE, Firefox, and Opera
Cost, Speed & Security
Basically, there are three important aspects of cable modems: cost, speed and security.
Cost: A psychological hurdle for some folks. Currently in my town, this is $35 per month plus tax if you own your cable modem, compared to the usual $20-25 for unlimited ISP accounts. Cable modem rental, if you want to do that, is $10 per month for rental of the cable modem. When you buy one of those, you can eliminate that part of the cost. See my article on buying a cable modem. If the Cable Internet service provider is not running a sign up special that includes a free or $99 cable modem, then rent one and buy one at your local computer store.
If you have a second phone line for computer use, you don’t need it any more. My monthly total stayed the same, since I got rid of my ISP account and my second phone line. Installation cost is highly variable. A number of discount programs have been available to get reductions from the full-price installation, and even discounted rates for several months.
In addition, the cable Internet service providers often have a "free month" referral reward program, which you can award to the subscriber of your choice. Be sure to see what deals are available.
Speed: Whee! Web access is often via the Cable ISP’s proxy servers in your city, which make life easier for all of us by caching web pages. (Cox in Baton Rouge either does not have these, or they are configured transparently from our point of view as users.)
Proxy servers do two nice things: they hide your IP address when you visit a website, and they cache files to give faster downloads to subsequent requests by anyone. I’ve seen downloads of game demos as fast as 266K Bytes per second through links on my old @Home account, and downloads of other cached files in excess of 100K Bytes per second.
These are really handy when a browser "direct connection" or ftp rate may be 5K per second to a very busy site (say, a RedHat mirror site the day after a new version is released with 2-3 CD’s data). The system is optimized for downloading. Upload speed is typically capped at 128K bits (8 bits per byte/character) per second.
You should note that speed differs through the day, as demand
in your subdivision loop, your city, and the rest of the U.S. tend to max during 6:00pm-8:00pm. Let me say this again. Your mileage will vary.
You will also see the real difference between websites which have poor or overloaded Internet connections and those with good connections. Downloads from ftp or web sites will typically max at 20-40KBytes per second, not because of the cable ISP’s load or Internet load, but because the ftp/web sites set download caps to make sure they can serve more people at the same time.
Popular downloads will often be much quicker if you can use a proxy server, instead of a "direct Internet connection" in your browser software.
Security: You MUST have a two-way software firewall. For a long time, many cable ISP’s did not clearly explain this, although the terms of service documents advised you that you are responsible for your computer’s security. Your Cable ISP can not protect your computer; you must do that.
Turning off File and Print Sharing does not secure your machine, it simply turns off the Microsoft program that might be listening to those ports.
Whether a static IP address or a dynamic IP address, your system will be probed by others (including turkeys on your cable system) who are looking for systems to trash, to use in attacking other sites, or to use as a spamming site — making you look like the spammer.
I even get scanned when I’m connected via my dial-up backup through another ISP.
I also strongly recommend that anyone connecting to the Internet via a Cable, DSL or other high-speed/broadband connection (and especially students in a dorm connecting via the school’s network!) use a cable/DSL router to isolate their computer from being able to be contacted from the Internet.