Getting Online

Choosing an Internet service provider
WebTV
PC TV with Windows 98
Cybercafés
Free Internet access at libraries
Access at the airport
On the go with Handheld PC and Palm-size PC devices
In your car with Auto PC

 Hughes Glantzberg

Last Revised: 11/17/1998

Created by
The PC Help Desk
(Hughes Glantzberg)

Choosing an Internet Service Provider

An Internet Service Provider (ISP) gives you the telephone access and software you need to connect to the Internet, along with some technical help. Many ISPs also include an electronic-mail account, host customers' Web pages, and offer services to companies that do business on the Internet. You can choose from local or national ISPs.

What about online service providers?
An online service provider, can connect you to the Internet, too, and provide technical support. Online service providers also offer special features and content. An online service provider's home page may provide links to many useful Internet sites - such as a city guide site or sites about investing, buying a car, or getting started on the Internet - in addition to access to your E-Mail, the World Wide Web, and newsgroups. Online service providers tend to offer service nationwide, which is why they can afford to provide extras to their customers. Some online service providers include America Online, CompuServe, Prodigy and MSN.

Consider these factors
To identify ISPs and online service providers in your area, look under "Internet products and services" or a similar topic in your local yellow pages. Then call their customer service number and ask the representative about these aspects of their service.

Dialing in. Does the ISP or online service provider offer service through a telephone number in your area? Does it offer a local telephone number or toll-free number in areas you expect to travel to?

Access. How often will you actually get through, rather than get a busy signal, when you dial in? (Don't just rely on a customer service representative for this information. Try calling the connection number several times at different times of the day, and see what results you get.)

Technical support and customer service. Are there knowledgeable, friendly technical support and customer service people available whenever you need them? Is the telephone call toll-free? How long will you have to wait on hold? Can you get technical support and customer service online?

E-mail. Does the service provide an E-Mail account, and can you access your account through another ISP if you're outside a local ISP's area?

Web pages. Can you post a Web site on the ISP's server? How much space can you get for your page and at what cost? Will you be charged based on the amount of traffic your page gets? Will the server support CGI scripting (necessary if your page includes a form)?

Performance. How quickly does the service deliver your E-Mail? (The industry average time is within 5 minutes 95 percent of the time.) How long does it take for Web pages to download? (The average is just over 40 seconds for popular consumer pages.) How often does the service experience failures and for how long?

Upgrades. Can you upgrade to a faster modem or to ISDN service?

Price. Many services offer different monthly subscriptions, including unlimited access for a flat monthly fee and limited hours for a flat monthly fee with additional hours, as needed, for an extra charge. When you compare ISP and online service provider prices, consider the factors above as well as the special features and content that the online service providers offer.

Internet Connection Wizard
The Microsoft® Windows® 98 operating system includes a new Internet Connection Wizard, which makes it easy for you to set up your very first connection to your ISP or online service provider. It includes a national list of ISPs and online service providers for you to choose from. The wizard automatically sets up your system to connect you to the Internet using the ISP you choose.

Sites to visit
Read reviews of ISPs and online service providers at ZDNet.

WebTV

When you hook up the WebTV® Plus system to your regular television set, you can surf the Internet, watch traditional TV programs, do both at the same time, or watch enhanced programs right on your TV. (Enhanced TV programs allow you to link to more information about whatever you're watching - such as a baseball player's statistics or a biography of a show's star.)

By bringing you both the Internet and television programming, WebTV unlocks new worlds of entertainment and learning. Just put the receiver on top of your TV and connect the two. The receiver includes a 3D graphics engine, a 3-in-1 stereo tuner, a 1.1 gigabyte internal hard drive, and the capability to print the Internet content you find. You can even store information to view later. And it's easy to switch between a Web site and television.

Several companies already offer Internet access via TV. WebTV Networks, Inc., a leading developer of Net-television technology, offers subscribers a Web connection, newsgroup access, E-Mail accounts for up to six people, and WebTV Plus.

Sites to visit

You can find out more about WebTV from the WebTV Web site and the WebTV Network Web site.

PC TV with Windows® 98

WaveTop® for Windows 98 makes it possible to get Internet content without tying up your telephone line, while you watch regular and enhanced television programs on your computer. To do this, you need:

With these, your computer can receive Internet content that's broadcast over PBS's closed-captioning wavelength, as well as TV broadcasts. Providers broadcasting Internet content include USA Today, Time, The Weather Channel, CBS SportsLine, People, Fortune, and PBS Online. You select the content you want. Then it's delivered to and stored on your hard disk so you can take a look at it whenever you want.

As for TV broadcasts, you can get regular TV programs as well as enhanced program, which combine traditional TV with interactive elements. With enhanced TV, additional information about the program is just a click away.

Cybercafés

If you don't have regular access to a computer at home, or if you just feel like being social, visit a cybercafé, or Internet café. These establishments, which provide (for a fee) computer and Internet access to customers, along with coffee, other refreshments, and food, have been springing up all over the country in the past few years.

Free Internet Access at Libraries

If you don't have Internet access at home, check with your local library to find out whether it provides personal computers and Internet access for public use. Many provide these, along with instruction on how to access the Internet, free to visitors with a library card.

Closing the gap
Low-income families are far less likely than their higher-income neighbors to have access to the Internet on a home computer - at a time when computer literacy is more important than ever. Thanks to the nation's libraries, Microsoft, and the Gates Library Foundation (created by Microsoft Chief Executive Officer Bill Gates and his wife, Melinda), this gap is starting to close.

Libraries Online!
Microsoft teamed up with the American Library Association and the Technology Resource Institute from 1995 to 1997 to make computers and the Internet more accessible through a program called Libraries Online! The program provided grants, training, and technical assistance to libraries across the United States, Canada, and Ireland, to help them give the public access to computers and the Internet and to provide some of their services online, too. (Try searching the Internet to see whether your library has its own Web site.)

For the future
The Gates Library Foundation, established in 1997, builds on the Libraries Online! program. The foundation works with libraries in low-income areas to get them the computer equipment and technology training they need to provide access and assistance to their visitors. In five years, the Gates plan to contribute $200 million to the effort. Microsoft will match their donation with software.

Sites to visit
Get details on the Gates Library Foundation at its Web site.

Access at the airport

Stuck waiting for a flight to Poughkeepsie? Why not check your E-Mail? Some airlines and airports provide Internet kiosks (computer stations from which you can access the Internet) or locations where you can plug in your portable computer for Internet access. Check with individual airlines and airports to find out whether they offer these services and what you need to do in order to use them.

On the go with Handheld PC and Palm-size PC devices

Handheld PC, designed to fit into a jacket pocket or purse, and Palm-size PC, about the size of your hand, let you take electronic-mail messages and Internet content with you wherever you go. The Microsoft® Windows® CE operating system powers both of these types of handheld computers. With a Handheld PC, you can dial up and connect to a server when you're away from your desktop computer so you can receive E-Mail and browse the World Wide Web. With a Palm-size PC, you can download E-Mail and Internet content from your desktop to read on your Palm-size PC when it's convenient for you.

In the car with Auto PC

With Auto PC powered by Microsoft® Windows® CE operating system, you've even got access to the Internet when you hit the highway. Using simple voice commands, you can listen to your electronic-mail messages and have Internet content delivered wirelessly and read to you as you drive.