I spend a considerable amount of time each day uploading files.

Daily we put up the Liturgy of the Hours in audio and update our live chapel Web-cam picture every minute. To make monksofadoration.com work, you might think we need a big-bandwidth connection such as cable, DSL or T1. But, in fact, we make do with a dial-up, 56kbps modem and a regular telephone line.

The Web cam has been a challenge with this arrangement because “unlimited” usage on a dial-up connection by an Internet service provider (ISP) does not mean you can be permanently connected or have a “dedicated” line. Read your ISP contract closely some time, and you will find all sorts of reasons they can give to terminate you.

Most ISPs restrict how long you can stay connected before being kicked off. And they monitor your usage such that if you are idle too long, the connection will be severed.

“Excessive Usage” is another reason for termination. This could cover being connected for too many hours each month—or for using up too much bandwidth through excessive amounts of downloading and uploading.

Now, it is understandable why dial-up Internet Service Providers have to limit usage. An ISP can only have so many people connected on their network at the same time at a given location. When that number is exceeded, customers become angry because of those infamous busy signals, of which AOL was a prime example at one time. About four years ago, ISPs started clamping down on usage. I was using Prodigy for my Web cam and everything was fine until they rewrote their customer agreement. Within weeks, I was scheduled for termination for “excessive usage” unless I cut back on usage. So I started looking for another ISP.

After much searching, I found C-Zone.net out of California. I specifically asked if they had any problem with my having a Web cam that was connected 24/7. They said that, as long as they could kick me off every eight hours, it would be OK with them. So I set it up such that when I was disconnected, the Web cam would automatically reconnect. This worked well for a few years. Between the extra phone line and the ISP, we were paying $37 per month.

Then came the advent of broadband connectivity. At first, this wasn't even a consideration because of the price. A few months ago, Comcast, our local cable-TV carrier, began advertising cable connection to the Internet for $49.95 per month. My interest was piqued—until I found out I would have to rent a cable modem for an additional $7 per month, or buy it for who knows how much, plus pay installation fees, a network card, and so on. There went my interest.

Last month, the company promoted a special deal for Internet cable: Free installation and setup, a free cable modem until January 2002, free network card, $9.95 per month for the first three months and $42.95 thereafter. What did I have to lose? Certainly trying it for three months at $9.95 was worth the risk.

Having heard some horror stories regarding both cable and DSL, I made it a point to back up my computer's files before the installation. Comcast guaranteed that they would show up to hook it up between 1 and 5 p.m. on Wednesday—or give me a $20 credit. The workers descended upon our place in rapid succession. First, a technician came to install and turn on the cable; he also tested the signal to ensure the cable modem would work properly.

Next, a Comcast representative arrived, contract in hand, and asked me to sign on the dotted line. Then came the technician to actually hook up the cable modem, network card and install the software on our computer

Now he was fast.

He never touched the mouse and his hands flew so fast over our keyboard that I thought smoke would start pouring out! He gave a five-minute explanation of the software installed and left. And it has been working flawlessly ever since.

Have I noticed a difference? Definitely. Sending and receiving e-mail takes place in the blink of an eye, file uploading that used to take at least 10 minutes now takes one and streaming broadband video looks a lot sharper (although every once in a while the video action falls behind the audio). The increase in surfing speed was less dramatic, but it's still noticeable.

So should you take the broadband plunge? That depends on your current situation and the specials offered in your area.

Do you currently pay for a separate phone line? You will also have to factor in the cost of adding either a software or hardware firewall. Hardware-wise, a Pentium 166mhz computer is minimum and 200mhz is preferred for cable. Connecting multiple computers will cost you an extra $8 per month, per computer. If your current costs are already close to cable costs, it is worth it to upgrade.

Brother John Raymond, co-founder of the Monks of Adoration, writes from Venice, Florida.