Internet Access FAQ
Internet Access FAQ
This FAQ addresses general questions concerning Internet access. For questions regarding specific services we provide that aren't answered here, visit the Fusion, DSL, and dial-up FAQs. Also, Wikipedia has a really good article on Internet access.
What types of Internet access does Pacific Internet provide?
Pacific Internet provides three different Internet access products: Fusion, "Legacy" DSL, and dial-up. Legacy DSL is currently being retired, as our upstream providers are discontinuing the service. Fusion and Legacy DSL both use DSL technologies, but they are different versions within the same family. They are both broadband, but Fusion has many advantages over Legacy DSL, which is older. Fusion can use the full range of DSL, from ADSL, ADSL2+, and VDSL2. In addition to better speeds and improved signal quality, Fusion also comes bundled with phone service (thus the name). For details regarding the differences, see the Fusion FAQ. Additionally, Pacific Internet continues to offer dial-up services for people who cannot get Internet access any other way, particularly rural customers. Wireless Internet access is becoming increasingly prevalent in our county, and those who cannot get broadband Internet access through us might want to look into that option.
What is DSL?
DSL technology is a way of making a high-speed digital network connection (such as an Internet connection) over an ordinary analog phone line. The speed of a DSL connection is much faster than what is possible using an analog dial-up modem (in most cases, at least 20x faster), and it does not interfere with your use of the phone line for ordinary calls—people can call you (and you can call them) at the same time the DSL connection is in use!
The type of DSL we offer (and the most popular and common type of DSL) is known as ADSL. This literally means the upload and download speeds are different (i.e., not symmetric). This is contrasted with SDSL, where the upload and download speeds are the same (symmetric).
ADSL has many advantages over SDSL:
- SDSL is much more expensive than ADSL.
- You can get more ADSL download bandwidth for less money because you don't have to pay for a matching level of upload bandwidth.
- ADSL has a much more generous distance limit than SDSL, meaning the signal can reach farther before degrading.
- Only ADSL allows you to use the phone while you are online. SDSL cannot do this, as it is used for data only.
What are ADSL2+ and VDSL2?
ADSL2+ is a specific revision of the ADSL technology, offering improvements over earlier versions. VDSL2 is a modern standard, capable of achieving much higher speeds than ADSL2+.
The different technologies have different applications, however. VDSL2 speeds are limited to users within a range of roughly 4,000 feet from the CO. In Ukiah, the Central Office is located only one block north of our office on South School Street, downtown. We can see how far away your home or business is by looking up your address, so feel free to contact us to find out what speeds you can expect for your location.
What is the difference between "Legacy DSL" and Fusion?
Pacific Internet's Fusion service is actually two things: a regular telephone connection (but through us, rather than the old phone company) and a next-generation ADSL2+/VDSL2 connection that can give even higher speeds than the original type of DSL connection. We refer to the older type of DSL connection as "Legacy DSL", and it can give speeds of 1.5Mbps, 3.0Mbps, or 6.0Mbps. The ADSL2+ connection used by our Fusion service can give speeds as high as 20Mbps and VDSL2 lines have been seen up to 100Mbps (dependent upon distance from the CO). For more benefits of Fusion over Legacy DSL, see the Fusion FAQ.
My Internet connection has wiring problems. Will you help me fix it?
Troubleshooting wiring issues can take some time, but you should absolutely contact us if you think there are problems with your Internet connection; we will help you track them down. We will help you identify whether the problem is with your internal wiring or if the problem is on our side of things. Figuring that out is free, and usually very quick. Depending on the source of the problem, we may or may not be able to help you fix it, however. If the problem is on our side, we will work to resolve the issue as quickly as possible. This can take some time because there are many entities involved in repairing public utilities—including AT&T. If the problem is determined to be your internal wiring, we will help troubleshoot further, for a fee. We don't work on internal wiring, however, so you will need to hire somebody else for that or do it yourself. If you want us to troubleshoot internally, we will attempt to locate the source of the problem to make the repairman's job easier (and therefore cheaper for you).
What is a modem?
A DSL modem is a small box that connects to your telephone line and converts the DSL connection into a computer networking connection that can be used by just about any computer regardless of make or operating system. Unlike old-fashioned analog dial-up modems, they generally are not "internal" (i.e., inside the computer), in part because that would make it more complicated to connect more than one computer to a single DSL connection. You can only have one DSL modem on any phone line that has DSL service.
What is a router?
A router is a device which allows more than one computer to share a network connection. It has equipment inside it which manages the computers in your house or office and allows all of them to communicate with each other through an Internet connection.
Most consumer-grade routers will have five Ethernet ports on the back. These are connections that look similar to a telephone jack, but are about twice as wide. One of the five jacks on the standard router will be separated from the other four and is commonly labelled "Internet" or "WAN" which you connect to a DSL modem or other Internet connection. The other four jacks are LAN connections that you can connect to a computer or other network–connected device such as a game console or printer. Of course, you have to have an Ethernet cable to make the connection. Cables are available at many local stores, in varying lengths.
Wireless routers provide wireless networking capability. This allows devices to connect over radio waves instead of through Ethernet cables. The router's wireless access point can be set up to give your network a unique name (SSID) and optional password (PSK) to keep unwanted people from using your connection without permission. On a wireless-equipped device (such as a laptop, smart phone, or tablet) you pick your network's name and type in the key, and it will be connected directly to your router via radio. Most devices remember your network's settings and connect automatically whenever they see it.
What is a modem/router combo unit?
Just what it sounds like—a single box that contains both a DSL modem and a router. By combining them, you eliminate the need for one power connection and one cable (the one between the modem and the router), so places where space is at a premium can benefit from the combo unit. Modem–router combo units have the disadvantage that they make troubleshooting more difficult and can result in unnecessarily costly replacement if only one portion of the unit goes bad. Pacific Internet has both standard DSL modems and wireless modem/router combo units available if you need them.
What are DSL filters?
DSL Filters are small devices which are inserted on the phone line, typically between the wall jack and any telephone or other device which uses the same phone line in your home/office as your DSL connection. Such devices include fax machines, answering machines, cable boxes, or satellite receivers that use the phone line (e.g., to order Pay Per View). A special filter is available for wall-mounted phones that mounts as a flat plate between the phone and the wall. Both types of filter prevent analog phone calls and the digital connection signal from interfering with each other. If you don't use the filters, you will normally hear high-pitched static on your phone (and your DSL connection will be abnormally slow). Despite the name, the DSL modem should be the only device in the house which is not connected to a filter. DSL filters are used on every device except the modem. If you must connect the modem to a jack that is in use by a phone or other device, a splitter–filter is available. It provides two connections—one filtered (for the phone) and the other unfiltered (for the modem).
DSL uses the high frequency bandwidth of your existing telephone lines to transmit and receive data. The filters are "low-pass" filters, which means they allow the low frequency signals (voice) to pass through, while blocking the high frequency signals (data) from traveling through the phone lines to your telephone. Without the filters, the high frequency data signals would be heard on your phone as static and noise, and would diminish the quality of your voice and data services. Filters protect your telephone voice quality and keep your DSL service operating at optimal speeds.
How do I connect more than one computer to my DSL connection?
Basically, you just need a router (as described above). The router takes care of all of the details involved in sharing an Internet connection between several computers.
How do I set up a wireless connection in my home/office?
You need a wireless router (as described above). Note that a wireless network is independent of the Internet connection. You can connect a wireless device to a wireless network if you have a wireless router, but that doesn't mean your router has Internet access. It is important to understand the wireless network has nothing to do with the Internet connection provided by Pacific Internet.
With that said, the basic steps for configuring a wireless network are:
- Assign a meaningful name to your wireless network (i.e., "JonesNet" if your name is Jones).
- Assign a password (properly called a "key") for your wireless network. We recommend you use the WPA2-AES encryption method, as it is currently the hardest to break into; only use one of the lower encryption methods if you have an older device that won't connect using WPA2-AES.
- On your wireless device (laptop, smartphone, tablet, etc), view the available wireless networks. Pick yours and type in the key when asked. Once connected, the device will remember the connection info for the future and should connect automatically.
Exactly how you perform the steps above will depend on your brand of router. Most of the time, you'll use your web browser to access a web page built into the router at its local address (192.168.1.1 is common, but check your router's instructions) and enter the settings into its "Wireless" section. Unfortunately, our ability to help with this process is limited, due to the wide variety of routers available.
Also, exactly how you connect a device will depend on the device you are connecting with. Different brands of smartphones will require different steps. Apple computers and Windows computers will be different. Even among Windows laptops, manufacturers sometimes use their own wireless connection software instead of what comes built into Windows, and we can't be familiar with every set of software in use. Always check any instructions that came with your device, and check the manufacturer's website to see if they give instructions. You can always bring your router and device into our office, and our support staff will help you get things set up.
What is the difference between download and upload?
Download refers to traffic which comes from the Internet to your computer. Upload refers to traffic which goes from your computer to the Internet. The vast majority of end–user Internet traffic is comprised of downloading.
What is the difference between speed and bandwidth?
Most people mistakenly refer to "bandwidth" as the "speed" of their connection. Bandwidth refers to how much data can be sent per unit time. Speed refers to how fast that data is transmitted. More bandwidth allows more data to be transmitted in the same amount of time, giving the effect of a faster connection.
The maximum bandwidth you can currently obtain over a single line is 100 Mbps download and 50 Mbps upload (although it is possible to bond two lines together for increased bandwidth). Obtaining the theoretical maximums, however, is practically impossible. The bandwidth you will actually obtain directly depends upon your distance from the Central Office (CO). The further away you are, the weaker the signal gets and the less bandwidth you will have. Typical speeds for downtown Ukiah are 40 Mbps down and 10 Mbps up, using the new VDSL2 technology. Typical speeds for downtown Ukiah on ADSL2+ lines are 20 Mbps down and 1.3 Mbps up. Typical speeds for the far reaches of Ukiah (Airport, Oak Manor, north of the high school, and similar distances) might be more like 3 Mbps down and 0.8 Mbps up. The difference in upload and download bandwidth is due to the design of the ADSL technology.
It is very difficult to predict the bandwidth you will get because there are so many variables which influence the signal. For instance, your neighbor may be on a run of telephone wire which takes an entirely different route from the CO. If your run of wire takes a longer route than theirs, your bandwidth will probably not be as high. If your run of wire takes a shorter route, your bandwidth might be better. If your neighbor has a shorter path to their house, but the wiring inside their house is shoddy, they might receive a horrible signal while you, despite being on a longer path, have impeccable wiring and so receive a much clearer signal and have greater bandwidth than them.
Why is my speedtest so slow?
For starters, if you're calling things "slow", review the question above. Now that you understand what bandwidth is, consider that a "speedtest" is measuring bandwidth. Speedtests, like the one found at speedtest.net are an indirect way of measuring bandwidth.
Your modem syncs with our equipment at a negotiated bandwidth. When our technicians look at your line to see if your Internet connection is up, they are primarily checking the modem's sync rate. If the modem is in sync, you have Internet access. If the modem is not in sync, you do not.
When you run a speedtest, you make a connection between your computer and a server somewhere in the world. Those two machines attempt to send so much data back and forth to each other, that the upper limit of the connection is reached. This is practical in theory, but can be error–prone in practice because a number of factors influence the results of the speedtest beyond the modem's sync rate.
Consider a home or small office with a handful of computers, say 5-10, both laptops and desktops. There are probably also a number of other devices like cellphones, tablets, printers, media devices, etc. The total bandwidth available from the modem's negotiated sync rate must be shared between all of the devices using the Internet connection. The speedtest you ran only sends data over a connection between your browser and the remote machine. Even other processes on your machine will lower the speedtest's results. To get the best possible results from a speedtest, you must ensure that absolutely nothing else is taking up the bandwidth of your connection while you run the test. Then consider that the data sent between your computer and the remote server must also travel across the Internet. Every step of the way, including the remote server's Internet connection will weigh in on the results of the test.
In short, a speedtest can be useful, but only as a general guideline or rule of thumb. Very large jumps, such as 8.0/1.2 Mbps (down/up) to 1.3/0.4 Mbps, are a cause for investigation. The issue could be a problem with wiring, the modem, the router, the computer, or simply because another device was hogging the connection when you ran the test. Minor fluctuations, such as 8.0/1.2 Mbps to 7.8/1.1 Mbps, are normal, expected, and probably due to the phase of the moon. Do not complain to us about minor fluctuations or we will laugh at you and provide a link to this FAQ.
What is the difference between static and dynamic IP addresses?
An IP address is the numeric address that your computer is assigned while it is online, (for example, 22.214.171.124). This is not related to your email address. There are two main ways of assigning IP addresses: dynamically and statically. The most common type is dynamic. A dynamic IP address may be different each time you get online, assigned randomly from a pool of available addresses. For the vast majority of users, this is fine. A static IP address is a numeric address assigned to your account which does not change. This is only needed in very specific business environments, such as when running a mail server, setting up a VPN, etc. Your company's network administrator will be able to tell you whether or not you need a static IP address. Again, the vast majority of users will not.
Why is AT&T still involved in my Internet (and phone) service?
Our Internet service uses DSL technology (see above). AT&T owns the phone lines, and since we use the phone lines, they are involved. Generally, the only time AT&T gets involved is when—through troubleshooting—we determine there to be a problem with AT&T's lines. In that case, we open trouble tickets with AT&T on your behalf.