Your Internet Consultant - The FAQs of Life Online

2.10. Where can I get Internet access in my area?

One of the most challenging aspects of using the Internet might surprise you. It's not learning to use a dozen new programs to navigate the network, or even finding out about all of the interesting places to explore. The biggest challenge for most of us--finding Internet access--comes before these other tasks.

Finding the right access may mean one quick phone call to a nearby friend who's "in the know," or it could mean hours of phone calls and research. Is it worth it? Absolutely. Getting on the Internet is like buying a house or planning a vacation: there are options to consider, choices to make and in the end, a worthwhile prize.

No matter which method of access you want, you need to know specific things about service providers before making the decision as to which one to use. Arm yourself with the information in this section and then begin contacting promising service providers and ask questions--lots of questions.

If you know people who have Internet access, ask them how they get access. If those people live near you and are happy with their service, chances are that service will be right for you, too.

Note: I hope you will be able to stick with one service for a long time. Staying with one service means you won't have to keep learning new interfaces and commands, because no two services are exactly alike, and you'll have a stable electronic mail address so that your corespondents can find you. Internet service providers vary wildly in services and prices. Be sure to check all your options before you sign on the dotted line. Then again, don't worry too much about finding the perfect Internet service provider the first time around. Getting online the first time is usually the most difficult; once you're online, you'll find a wealth of information about other--possibly better--ways to connect to the Internet. You can change your service provider at any time. Although it's cumbersome to set up a new account, tell your associates your new e-mail address and so on. You shouldn't feel locked in to a particular service provider or type of service.

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