ADSL Internet Access: an overview
ADSL accounts enable a permanent internet connection using your telephone line. You choose whether you need a capped account with fixed data, or an uncapped account with a fixed speed.
The cost of an ADSL (Asynchronous Digital Subscriber Line) internet connection consists of the telephone line rental (payable to your phone company) and an internet access account provided by your ISP (Internet Service Provider).
The ISP's ADSL account consists of a username and a password which is entered into your ADSL router (box). That account determines how much data you may transfer to and from the ADSL network (the internet) OR the speed it which may be transferred at.
Why is it limited?
All networks, including the internet, are finite in reach, size and capacity. Essentially that means that the internet's capacity is limited - just like the capacity of the networks it interconnects. Only x gazillion-trillion-dillion gigabytes of data can be moved through it every second.
The "capacity" of a network is measured in the amount of data it can transfer in a given time. For instance, an average ADSL line's capacity might be 4Mbps. That means it can transfer 4 Mega (million) bits (8 bits make one letter) per second. If everyone with an ADSL line decided to download data at the same time, it would be the equivalent of all the cars in the world deciding to drive to work at the same time. Chaos. Gridlock. Critical humor failure.
So a mechanism must exist to make sure that everyone gets a fair share of network resources.
The latent demand is too high
Remember the days when we could store our work on a floppy disk (0.3 Gb)? Today we carry gigabytes of data on our key rings, in our pockets on our our smart phones. Our home computers have hundreds or thousands of gigabytes of storage. Every time we use our smart phones to take a pictures of a sandwich, it offers to upload all 4 Mb of it's A3 sized gastronomic splendor to the internet for safekeeping (or psychiatric analysis).
As digital/internet citizens, this means our computers (including our smart phones, tablets, DVD players, toasters, pot plants) continue to move more and more data around the internet. Huge Microsoft security updates, virus scanner updates, YouTube videos, emails, Facebook sandwich pictures, movies, music, internet TV, twitter, spam, torrents, webcam video streams, ad infinitum.
The resource is limited so our access to it must be too.
Limits: Capped vs. uncapped accounts
The term "Capped" means that a limit is imposed on the volume of data an account is allowed to transfer. Once the account exceeds this limit, no more data can be transferred.
"Uncapped" means there is no limit on the amount of data transferred, but the data transfer speed is limited - not just by the speed of the ADSL line, but also by the ADSL account itself.
Either data volume or transfer speed is capped.
Choosing a capped ADSL account means that you chose to pay for a maximum monthly volume of data you expect to down load - in advance. A budget of sorts. Users who want the fastest internet access possible with no interference at all chose this type of account.
An uncapped account works in a different way: You can download any amount of data...BUT, you are limited on how fast you can download the data. Even if you have a 10Mbs ADSL line, buying a uncapped account at a certain speed will mean that your ISP will not allow data to move faster than the rate of your ADSL account.
To ensure fair usage on uncapped accounts, service providers may "shape" or "throttle" your internet usage in addition to limiting data transfer speed. This means that at certain times web browsing traffic may be given a higher priority than, for instance, downloading a torrent; so uncapped accounts are subject to the rules implemented by the ISP to ensure that the majority of users are not inconvenienced by a small minority of excessive users. This is called a "fair use policy"
How to decide
Our advice is to get the best internet access account your budget allows. Compare what you pay for internet access with a movie rental. Or a takeaway meal. A bottle of wine. A pack of chips. Petrol. Parking. In other words, consider the essential value your internet connection provides - not just the currency number. To frustrate or encumber one's productivity where a few cents more will buy the (essential) internet access needed is as silly as insisting on wearing shoes that are too small.
If you want the fastest connection possible - choose a capped account and buy as much data as you need, plus a small reserve. If you do not know where to start, begin with a 5Gb account.
If you want a fixed cost and speed is not the biggest consideration - buy an uncapped account as fast as you can afford and your ADSL line allows.
ADSL account prices
For more information on specifics of the accounts (like prices) or to register for an account, please see:
Capped ADSL accounts
Fixed data, unlimited speed
Fixed speed, unlimited data