DSL Basics

DSL (Digital Subscriber Line) is a kind of broadband, that is, a form of highspeed Internet Access that uses a copper telephone connection much like dial-up does.  And like dial-up, DSL also uses a modem to convert computer data into tones and send them through the phone line to another modem to be decoded back into digital data.

However, unlike a dial-up modem which relies on the analog music-like tones you can sometimes hear when it is connecting, DSL uses a high-frequency, generally inaudible digital tones throughout. This makes it much faster, more reliable, and easier to use than dial-up. The service is “always on” — like the phone line, ready for use whenever you desire.

With our service, calls can be made even while you are online once filters are installed.

Southwest Cyberport’s DSL service requires both Internet access which SWCP provides and a phone circuit to the desired location through CenturyLink. (Billing is handled separately.) Formerly Qwest, CenturyLink is the main regional telephone company with whom we partner with to furnish DSL services to large areas of New Mexico, including Albuquerque, Los Alamos, Santa Fe, and Las Cruces.

Not every place in these areas, however, can get DSL. But many locations that cannot use the fastest connections may still be able to get a slower speed. However, both speed and the actual availability of your DSL service depends primarily upon the distance from your home or office to the CenturyLink Central Office serving your location.

It also highly depends on the quality of your phone circuit. The line must be “clean” — without any bridge-taps, pairgain, etc. (Note that CenturyLink will not undertake to refurbish a circuit, and their fiber upgrades to surrounding areas may degrade your service.) This is why your circuit must be prequalified before anything else can happen to see just what, if any, high speeds are possible at your address. You can easily check by prequalifying yourself here.

The phone line does not have to be in actual use, just usable. If you depend solely on your cellphone, you can get a slightly more expensive “Standalone” DSL service for currently idle but still usable landlines. See our complete DSL pricing information for home and business for details.

Several varieties of DSL exist. SWCP’s kind of service is called ADSL (Assymmetric DSL), typically used for homes and small businesses. This means that your downloading speed will be usually much faster than uploading speed, which works out fine for most users who aren’t constantly moving large files. The chief advantage of ADSL is that it can work at greater distances from a Central Office than other, more expensive, and faster types of DSL where line-sharing is not possible but downloading/uploading speeds are identical.

SWCP does also supply a much faster version of DSL called LightSpeed that works like that, too. LightSpeed does not allow line-sharing, but a wide variety of speed combinations are possible, including the same both up and down.

Your DSL router

Of course, equipment such as a router containing a modem must be acquired and installed to connect your computer to your DSL circuit. Most DSL routers can provide a hardware firewall as well as a bridge for local networking for up to 4 PCs and laptops. More and more have Wi-fi capability, so you can effortlessly connect from any room around the house. Some can even be configured to allow many more office-to-office links for sharing resources (such as a mail server) between different locations.

There are many different brands and makes of DSL gateways; SWCP supports nearly two dozen as the phone company keeps changing models. All units have certain things in common, however. The front of the box generally has a row of indicator lights; on the back, there are plugs for various connectors. All may be named differently than as described here, and there could be an Alarm light, too. If the router’s equipped for Wi-fi, there is usually a small antenna on the side.

Back panel plugs:

  • Power plug, often, but not always, accompanied by an on/off switch.
  • DSL – a phone plug to connect with the incoming line’s wall socket. Sometimes called Line. Note: do not put a line filter here; however, if there is no phone plug on the router itself, a splitter may be needed at the wall plug to separate voice and data. Be sure to then connect the phone port to the line that goes to your telephone or answering machine to filter out data, and the DSL port to the back of the router.
  • Phone – usually present, this connects with your telephone/answering machine/fax, so the line goes from the wall to your router and then to your phone. This line will not need a filter, as it is built into the unit.
  • LAN – to bridge up to 4 Ethernet links. The first one should be connected to your main computer.
  • USB – a jack to hook up peripherals via USB.
  • Reset button – if present, this often appears as a small hole. Best to leave it alone, as pressing it will return the unit to factory-set defaults.

Front panel lights:

  • Power – indicates the unit is turned on and functioning.
  • Link or DSL or Line – shows connection to the DSL circuit. Note that if it is regularly flashing, it is attempting to synchronize, while glowing steadily means the link is available, and unlit means it’s not.
  • Internet or Act – indicates the actual tie to the Net. It should flicker while uploading and downloading, but shine steadily otherwise.
  • LAN or Ethernet – may be a light for each Ethernet connection or one for all of them.
  • USB – shows status of USB connection.
  • Wireless – lights when the local radio link is active.

Basic Setup

If you acquired your modem through SWCP, the device should be ready to use, and will only need to be physically connected and turned on. Three splitter/filters are provided so you can use your landline, etc.

If the gateway came from elsewhere than us, it will not be properly pre-configured. In any case, if you are running your own local network, need remote access, or for any other reason, you may find it helpful to call SWCP Tech Support to guide you through. However, if you subscribe to a burglar or fire alarm service that uses your telephone line, it may require a CenturyLink technician to come out and set your service up for a fee.

Firewall

Since DSL is “always on”, a firewall is absolutely essential. Though there is only one skinny little wire that connects your computer to the Internet, there are over 65,000 electronic data ports open and waiting inside. These are used to access all the many different services provided on the Internet. Some are assigned to email, file-sharing, web-browsing, instant messaging, and a whole lot of invisible and obsolete protocols, too. Most are unoccupied, but all ports need to be defended against intruders. Like a stout castle wall lined with guards watching all the gates, your firewall is your best and primary means to keep invaders out.

Firewalls can be software programs or hardwired into the machine. Many newer computers and routers use hardware kinds, and there are excellent freeware and purchasable brands available. SWCP suggests using both if possible, as not all products work the same. Some hardware firewalls, for instance, do not filter outbound traffic, which helps nobody if your machine is already infected. We also suggest setting all firewalls for maximum protection, specifically allowing only those programs you utilize to have Internet access, and setting up logs and alerts to make you aware of any suspicious activity.

Wi-fi

Wireless connectivity can be as welcome at home as elsewhere, permitting you to take your laptop to any room and not trip over cables. However, there are several important considerations to home wireless.

First, the radio range of the unit may be too limited. Different models have different strengths. Experimentation on where to best position the router and its antenna may be necessary.

Secondly, the range could also not be limited enough. Google’s data-gathering cars that take Street View photos for their maps also gathered information on Wi-fi hotspots: “sniffers” parked or driving by or even your neighbors may be able to access your connection.

Therefore, your wireless link should be encrypted. Many kinds are available, but do not use WEP. Though one of the earliest and most common forms of wireless encryption, WEP is so flawed as to be useless. More advanced forms are based on WPA and other types. Check the manuals for what is available for your router and laptop, and call Tech Support for assistance.

Diagnosing Problems

The indicator lights along the front edge of the modem can provide helpful information.

  • Power shows the gateway’s current status. If it is not glowing and the power cord is plugged in, the router has suffered a critical failure. “It’s dead, Jim.”
  • DSL lights when the router is connected to a functioning DSL line. The light flashing or dark means the signal from CenturyLink is interrupted or otherwise faulty, and you need to call CenturyLink Technical Support.
  • Internet shines steadily when a connection is available, flickers quickly while active. Steady flashing means it’s attempting to establish contact, red or dark means the router is failing authentication. If this persists, try cycling the power supply by turning the unit off and then back on after 2 seconds. If the Internet light remains unlit, the router may need to be reconfigured or there may be a problem upstream, and you should call our Help Desk.

As long as the gateway is on, the Internet light should remain lit, even when your computer is turned off. When operating, either the Ethernet, Wireless or USB lights should also be working, depending on your method of connection. If your firewall is blocking all network traffic, it should glow constantly.

Problems can result from bad phonelines, the DSL circuit, even our servers. There can also be software conflicts, poor physical connections, or perhaps you just turned your router on after your computer.

First, check all the plugs and then turn your computer off, wait a minute, and then back on, and you may often save yourself a phone call. But if you need help or have any questions, please call our smart, friendly Tech Support Staff at (505) 232-7992.

Connecting to SWCP

To access your account on our system, you will need your username and password from your User Account Data Sheet.

We have many options for travelers. Our webmail interfaces are accessible worldwide with an Internet connection. A dial-up account for emergency backup or travel is available to you for no extra setup fee. It’s only charged when actually used, at $1/hour. Also, special dial-up and broadband connections charged at local rates around the world are available through our iPass partnership. Please call Tech Support or check our website if interested.

Other Broadband Options

SWCP also has several other broadband options. For instance, SWCP DIRECT is a premium wireless access service that can reach all over Albuquerque and Santa Fe, but it’s geared mainly to businesses that can’t get DSL.

However, we now have an attractive new highspeed service called LightSpeed for homes and small businesses. It offers extremely fast speeds at affordable prices, but is strictly a standalone service. As mentioned above, LightSpeed is a form of DSL that can only utilize a phone line that is not being used for voice traffic. Many modern homes are already equipped with the proper internal wiring but in most cases installation still must be done by a technician.

Another advantage along with speed, however, is that customers do not have to deal with the phone company for billing or tech support, just your neighbors here at Southwest Cyberport. Getting fast speeds with our excellent technical support is a combination that is hard to beat!

Getting Started

First, prequalify your address for all SWCP’s highspeed access products to see just what speeds are actually possible at your location. Then, check out the prices for home and businesses. Finally, when ready to order, you can signup online at any time

Or feel free to call our Help Desk during office hours for more information or to order DSL service directly.

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