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Tutorial Overview

Topics covered in this tutorial (click link to jump to topic):

1. Introduction 5. Security
2. Advantages    
3. Disadvantages    
4. Reliability    


In Australia there are presently a number of broadband options for home users. The term "broadband" is really an umbrella term that describes a group of technologies that include ADSL (asynchronous data subscriber line), ISDN and satellite connections.

Broadband take-up has been very swift in Australia. Today more than half of the Internet connections in Australia are broadband connections. This has sweeping implications for applications such as Voice Over IP (VoIP), music and movies downloads and streaming technologies such as radio and podcasts.


Of the broadband technologies ADSL is by far the most popular. This is for several reasons:

  1. It is faster. Typically an ADSL connection has download speeds of between 215 kB and 1.5 MB, although 8MB to 24MB is available in some capital cities. Upload speeds are also improved with typical connections offering between 256 kb and 512 kb upstream. This is especially important for FTP.
  2. ADSL uses a different channel on an existing phone line, so no new phone line is required for the technology. Additionally, there is no engaged signal when a caller is trying to contact you on your ADSL enabled phone line. This means you can use the Internet and make or receive phone calls at the same time. People often put their ADSL modem and their fax machine on the same phone line.
  3. An ADSL connection is always on, meaning there is no dialling required. Once you turn your computer on, and it contacts your ADSL router or modem, you are connected to the Internet. This gives rise to certain security issues which are discussed further down this page.
  4. Today, ADSL is comparable in price to the older modem dial-up services. ADSL is priced differently from modem dial ups. Most ADSL plans set a monthly minimum payment and constrain data use. If you exceed your data limit your connection can be throttled i.e. slowed down.

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ADSL does have one large drawback. If your phone line runs more than 8 kms from the exchange, you will be outside the range of this service.

Additionally your neighbours on one side of your road may be able to get ADSL while you cannot. This is because their copper wires run to a different exchange or take a different route to the exchange.

The second generation of ADSL in Australia is presently being rolled out. Both up and down speeds have been increased dramatically. Also the reach from the exchange has been improved a little. At the time of writing, most major centres and capital cities have ADSL2 available.

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Reliability - what to do if it fails

ADSL is generally very reliable. However, when a service outage occurs, generally large numbers of connections go out at once. If you are experiencing any difficulty with your ADSL connection, the first thing you should do is to reset your ADSL modem or router by powering it down for five seconds and then turning back on again. This is known as "power cycling". You may as well do this, as if you call your ISP, it is the first thing they will ask you to do.

To be absolutely sure that you do not have a connection to the Internet go to your favourite search engine and put in a search word or phrase that you have not used in the past and see if you get results back. By using a dynamic web site, you will ensure you are not getting anything from the cache of your computer.

If you get results back in the browser window you can then proceed to e-mail and see if you can download e-mail. If you find that you can browse the Internet in Internet Explorer, but you can't download mail in Outlook Express, this points to some configuration issue with your mail server settings, username, password or firewall software.

If you find that you can not browse OR download email, it is time to call the service desk of your ISP and check that they are not experiencing any "network issues". Sometime they publish these on their web site, but this is poor advertising and they will only do this in extreme circumstances.

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With the rise of ADSL connections, personal firewalls and firewalls within routers have become more prevalent. Today Windows XP (with service pack 2) has a built-in firewall. The extra security is necessary as a result of the "always on" nature of an ADSL connection. Your ADSL router is on and connected to the Internet 24 hours a day. This gives a hacker plenty of time to probe your network and potentially access computers on it.

However many newer ADSL routers have built in security such as NAT, short for network address translation. NAT, which came about to address a perceived shortage of IP addresses (there are 4.3 billion possible under IPv4), hides the addresses of computers inside your network.

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