Choosing an Internet Service Provider


Several different kinds of businesses offer Internet connections, including large companies with access points in many cities, smaller local or regional Internet service providers, and online information services that provide TCP/IP connections to the Internet along with their own proprietary information sources (I'm talking about AOL here, of course).

You might notice that Windows XP comes with pre-installed software to use Microsoft's MSN service. The New Connection Wizard (which we'll discuss below) may try to steer you to an ISP that paid Microsoft to be listed. And, your computer reseller may have installed icons for other preferred services. Remember, you don't have to use any of these providers. Windows has all the software it needs to connect to any ISP except AOL, and AOL is easy to add on, if that's the way you want to go. (Getting their software is certainly no problem. If you're like me, you probably have at least 50 AOL CDs laying around. They come in magazines, newspapers, take-out pizzas…) Do your own research to find the best fit for you.

The following are a few points to consider in choosing an ISP:

  • Does the ISP offer the connection technology you want?

  • Can you have multiple email accounts for family members or employees? If so, how many?

  • Does the ISP provide you with a news server so you can interact with Internet newsgroups?

    To learn more about Newsgroups, What is the charge for connect time? Some ISPs offer unlimited usage per day. Others charge by the hour or have a limit on continuous connect time.

  • Does the ISP have local (that is, free) phone numbers in the areas you live, work, and visit? If not, factor in the toll charges when you're comparing prices.

  • Can you get a discount by signing up for a year or longer term contract?

If you have access to the Web, try checking the page www.thelist.com. You'll learn a lot about comparative pricing and features offered by ISPs, along with links to their pages for opening an account. Another good site is www.boardwatch.com.

Finally, you should know that there some ISPs that give you free dial-up Internet access. These providers install software on your computer that displays a small window of advertising the entire time you're connected. If you're pinching pennies, this isn't a terrible way to go. You might check out http://www.freedomlist.com/ for a list of free (and cheap) ISPs in your area.

TIP

In my opinion, getting good customer service is more important than saving a few dollars a month. As you narrow down your list of potential ISPs, call their customer support telephone number and see how long it takes to get to talk to a human being. This experience can be very illuminating.


Travel Considerations

If you're a frequent traveler and have a laptop or other device with which you want to connect to the Internet while on the road, remember that broadband service is wired into place. In other words it doesn't provide for access when you travel or roam about town unlike many national dial-up ISPs that offer roaming. However, some broadband ISPs include a standard modem dial-up account at no extra charge just to compensate for this factor.

If you want Internet connectivity when you travel, consider these options:

  • For occasional or personal travel, you can forgo national access. Just find an Internet cafe or get Internet access at your hotel. Wireless hot-spots are appearing everywhere, so you might do well just to buy a Wireless network adapter.

  • If you want to use your own computer for occasional travel, you can always place a long-distance call to your own ISP. Subtract the cost from the money you might save using a less expensive local ISP, versus the higher prices of a national ISP, to see which solution would be best.

  • If you travel frequently, choose a national ISP with local access numbers in the places you visit frequently or toll-free access with an acceptable surcharge.

At the end of this chapter, I'll give you some advice about getting Internet access while traveling overseas.

AOL

If you're a current dial-up AOL user you know how painfully slow it is at accessing non-AOL Internet Web sites (or maybe you don'tmaybe you think everyone suffers this way!). You should know that you can get a fast broadband connection or even standard dial-up service, which gives you fast Internet access, and still allows for use of AOL for email and their exclusive content.

Relying on the New Connection Wizard

Windows XP includes a wizard application that can connect via modem to a toll-free line operated by Microsoft, offer you a choice of ISPs, and sign you up for service, without your having to lift much more than a finger.

Before you let the wizard narrow the range of choices for you, remember that its range of choices is narrow to begin with. You'll probably want to do some research on your own. Then you can use the wizard to see if it recommends your ultimate choice. If it does, you can let it help you set up the account.



Special Edition Using Microsoft Windows XP Professional
Special Edition Using Microsoft Windows XP Professional (3rd Edition)
ISBN: 0789732807
EAN: 2147483647
Year: 2003
Pages: 450

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