Where Yesterday Meets Tomorrow
If you're thinking about getting on the world wide web (and aren't we all) you need to have a way to connect. The connection is provided by an ISP. (Computer geeks love to use initials. It makes them feel smarter than the rest of us) An ISP is an "internet service provider." It's the company you hire to connect you to the web. It's very simple. Your computer calls your ISP using your telephone line. The ISP answers the phone and connects you to the internet. Information is passed back and forth between your computer to the internet over your telephone line. Your phone is in use for the entire time you're connected to the internet. If someone tries to call you, they'll get a busy signal. It's just like talking on the telephone with Aunt Hazel.
That fine if Aunt Hazel lives across town, but if it's a long distance call and she's very talkative, you can run up a pretty hefty phone bill. It's the same with your ISP. If it's a local call and you pay your phone company by the call rather than by the minute, all's well. If it's a long distance call to your ISP, you're racking up charges all the while you're in the internet. The internet is notorious for making you loose track of time. You sign on and the next thing you know, it's two hours later. If it's a long distance phone call to your ISP, it gets real expensive real fast.
If you're an internet novice (and aren't we all) you might be tempted to sign up with a company like AOL (America On line) simply because you've heard of it and because, no matter what computer you buy, you get a glitzy AOL introductory package, a free sign up for a month or whatever, and it's easy - just pop the disk into the computer and you're hooked. You won't even get a chance to ask if it's a long distance call.
Be cautious and investigate your many other options. AOL calls itself a "premium service." It gives you lots of "special" services from news, sports, and stock quotes, to personal ads, x-rated chat rooms, and phoney Amerindian mysticism. You won't use 99% of the "services" AOL provides. AOL offers nothing that is not available on the web for free from hundreds of other sites.
Before you choose, check the yellow pages for "internet service providers." Ask your friends who are already connected. Ask the local librarian. Ask some of the local computer stores. Get names of other providers and call them. Get their prices and services. Especially, make sure it is not a long distance phone call from your house to theirs.
There are several other important factors to consider in picking your connection service. Ask how many people can connect to the web at one time. How close are they to overloading their capacity. When you call them, you don't want to be told that all their lines are busy.
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