For Seniors: Select the Best Internet Connection for You
Before connecting your computer to the Internet, you need to choose an Internet service provider (ISP) to provide that connection. An ISP owns dedicated computers (called Internet servers) that you use to access the Internet. ISPs charge a monthly fee for this service.
Not every one of the following connection types is necessarily available in every area, so check with phone, cable, and small Internet providers in your town to find out your options and costs. (Some offer discounts to AARP members, for example.)
Dial-up connections: With a dial-up connection, your ISP provides local access numbers that you use to connect your computer to the Internet through a phone line. This is the slowest connection method, but it’s relatively inexpensive and may be the only one available in remote areas.
You won’t incur long distance charges, but you can’t receive phone calls while you’re connected to the Internet using a dial-up connection.
Digital Subscriber Line: DSL is a form of broadband communication, which may use phone lines or fiber-optic cables. If DSL uses a phone line, your phone is still available to use even when you’re connected to the Internet.
Cable: Your local cable company can connect you via the cable that brings your TV programming. This is another type of broadband service, and it's also faster than a dial-up connection.
Satellite: Especially in rural areas, satellite Internet providers may be your only option. This requires that you install a satellite dish. BlueDish and Comcast are two providers of satellite connections to check into.
Wireless hotspots: If you take a wireless-enabled laptop computer with you on a trip, you can connect through wireless hotspots in many public places, such as airports, cafes, and hotels.
If you’re in range of a wireless hotspot, your laptop usually finds the connection automatically, making Internet service available to you for free or for a fee. You can also subscribe wireless network (cellular network) if you want to be able to connect to the Internet with more reliability and speed.
Some laptops and tablet devices can pick up a connection from a 3G-enabled cellphone if they are out of range of a network, though this usually involves paying an additional fee to your cellphone company.
Depending on your type of connection, you may need to add certain hardware to your computer setup.
A broadband connection uses an Ethernet cable and a special modem, which your provider provides, as well as a connection to your phone or cable line.
Most laptops are enabled for wireless service, or come with a built-in modem for dial-up connections.
If you have a laptop that doesn’t have a built-in wireless modem, you can add this hardware by buying a wireless CardBus adapter PC card at any office supply or computer store. This card enables a laptop to pick up wireless signals.
Many providers offer free or low-cost setup when you open a new account. If you’re not technical by nature, consider taking advantage of this when you sign up.