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Computer Lesson 6

How Do I Connect to the Internet?

You have all the basic parts of your computer set up and want to start surfing the Internet. You might even see an Internet Explorer icon on your desktop. You may be wondering if getting online is as simple as clicking that icon.

Well, yes and no.

There are basically three things you need to use your computer to become active online -- an Internet Service Provider (ISP), a modem, and an Internet browser. Before you can connect to the Internet, you have some decisions to make about these three topics.

Types of Internet Access

Before you can connect to the Internet, you need to determine the type of Internet access you would like, and which Internet Service Provider (ISP) you want to provide you with this access. An ISP is the company that provides you with your connection to the Internet for a fee. Often ISPs offer different types and tiers of access, so it is a good idea to consider the common types of service before exploring specific companies.

Dial-up Access

Dial-up access is usually the least expensive way to access the Internet; however, it is also the slowest. With dial-up service, you need a phone line and PC modem to dial-up and be connected to the Internet by your ISP.

A modem ties up the phone line so can't use the phone and computer at the same time. While dial-up access can be an affordable option, the web pages load slowly due to the limitations of the modem. Some websites with a lot of videos or graphics may have a difficult time loading, if they load at all.

Additionally, with dial-up access, your Internet connection isn't immediate. Since you have to use the telephone line to dial into a server, it can take from several seconds to minutes before you can access the Internet.

If you only use the Internet to check your email and occasionally view other websites, a dial-up connection may serve your needs. If you are going to spend any significant amount of time online, you should consider another option. Keep in mind that some ISPs have increased the fee for dial-up access in an effort to transition more people to broadband access.

DSL Access

DSL, or Digital Subscriber Line, provides high-speed, Internet access through a phone line. With DSL service, you can talk on the telephone and access the Internet at the same time. It is considered a type of broadband Internet access, which refers to high-speed Internet connections that allow for transmission of data at rates 10 to 50 times faster than dial-up service. Verizon and AT & T are two popular DSL providers.

A DSL modem and an Ethernet card are required for installation. A splitter may also be required to filter the DSL signal from the low frequency voice signal; however, this is handled by the Internet Service Provider.


Cable Access

Cable access is provided through your local TV cable company and transferred through your TV cables. Like DSL access, it is considered broadband, high-speed Internet access. If you don’t have cable TV, you can still purchase cable Internet service as long as it is available in your area.

With cable access, web pages load quickly and you will find it easy to download and upload files. One thing to be aware of though is that cable access is a shared service and can be affected by others who use the same cable lines. For example, if it is a holiday and everyone in your neighborhood is at home surfing the web, you
may notice that some aspects of service are slower than normal. In most areas, this won’t be an issue.

Satellite Access

Satellite access can be used in locations where there is no broadband cable or DSL Internet available.

Satellite access is available across the world and can provide you with a broadband connection that is equal to a high speed connection. Satellite service is the most expensive and will require costs such as installation and satellite equipment, which will cost several hundred dollars.

 Choosing an Internet Service Provider (ISP)

Once you have decided which type of Internet access you are interested in, you can determine which ISPs are available in your area that offer the type of Internet access you want. Then, you need to choose the ISP that best meets your needs based on their prices and service packages, and secure Internet access through that company.
Talk to friends, family members, and neighbors to see what ISP they use.

Some things to consider as you research ISPs:

  • Speed
  • Price
  • Billing
  • Installation Software
  • Physical Service
  • Service Record
  • Extras such as email accounts and web space
  • Technical Support
  • Remote Access
  • Contract Terms 

Hardware Needed

Internet Browser


Once you have your computer, you really don't need much additional hardware to connect to the Internet. The primary piece of hardware you need is a modem. The type of Internet access you choose will determine what type of modem you need.

Dial-up access uses a telephone modem, which may come installed on your computer. DSL service uses a DSL modem, cableaccess uses a cable modem, and satellite service
uses a satellite adapter. These modems are usually included as part of the start-up hardware from your ISP when you sign a contract for service.

Network Card

A network card is a piece of hardware that allows computers to communicate over a computer network. Most newer computers have a network card built into the motherboard, so it probably is not something you will need to purchase. Some modems use an Ethernet connection and network card to access the Internet, while other modems may use a USB port.


A router is a hardware device that allows you to use several computers on a single Internet connection from your ISP. With a router, all the computers in your home can connect to the Internet and all you pay for is one account with an Internet Service Provider and one IP address. Additionally, cable, DSL, and satellite users can use a router as a hardware firewall. Some people believe that a router provides better protection from hackers than a software firewall. Many routers are easy to install, priced reasonably, and can be used for wired or wireless networks.

A browser is the tool that allows you to view and interact on the Internet. Once you have an account with an ISP and can access the Internet, you'll need to use a browser to access web pages. Browsers can be referred to the window of the web because they allow you to view all the pages on the Internet.

Most computers come preloaded with Microsoft Internet Explorer, so you don't have to worry about purchasing a browser; however, you don't have to use Internet Explorer. If you would prefer to try another browser option, you can. For example, Mozilla Firefox is a free browser that you can download and use.

Google Chrome is another popular browser.