Let’s say you are like the majority of computer users: you have just moved in to a new place, called your cable company, and signed up for cable television and Internet service. All seems understandable, right? Then comes the hard part when your provider starts talking about cable modems. Do you want to pay a monthly fee to rent a cable modem from the company? Be prepared to be bombarded by a lot of technical jargon if you happen to ask, “is there another option?” The fact is, you can purchase cable modems from a many reliable sources, but first you need to know a few things about them, in a language that the average user will understand.
Simply put, the cable modem provides a fast way to connect to the Internet. The modem is that piece of equipment that you screw the coaxial cable into, attach to your computer with an Ethernet cord, plug into a power source, and voila – you are surfing the World Wide Web faster than Laird Hamilton on a big wave in Hawaii. The modem essentially translates the data coming from your cable provider into a digital language your computer understands. Most importantly, the purpose of modem is to allow for communication in the other direction, from your computer back to the Internet. Here is where all those numbers and abbreviations matter, in the translation of digital data and speed at which your computer communicates.
One question you will need to answer is whether to buy a DOCSIS 2.0 or DOCSIS 3.0 modem. DOCSIS (Data Over Cable Service Internet Specification) permits the transfer of data from the cable. While DOCSIS 2.0 will be a sufficiently fast modem, some users prefer the 3.0 version. With newer cable upgrades, the 3.0 will increase speed dramatically, both on the downloading and uploading end. DOCSIS 3.0 cable modems can be a bit more expensive than the 2.0 models, so first be sure your cable company supports this higher-speed technology and that particular modem. Most companies will provide you with a list of compatible modems and instructions for their configuration.
Some cable modems come with router capability if you plan on accessing the Internet on more than one computer. Another consideration is your environmental responsibility. You can find “green” cable modems, and their packaging, that are made entirely from recycled products and comply with Energy Star regulations. Also think about getting a modem with front panel LED status reading that allows you troubleshoot at a glance.
You should be able to find cable modems at a number of retailers from about $25 to more than $250 for advanced DOCSIS 3.0 models. Before you buy, ask neighbors who are using the same cable provider which type of modem they are using. This will help you determine what you can expect in terms of data speed from your provider. Then compare prices from local stores and online sources. You can also purchase used cable modems, but these rarely come with warranties and may prove more troublesome than they are worth.