Plenty of people buy a PC to crunch numbers, scan photos, or cultivate their kids’ hand-eye coordination. But for millions of people, Reason One for using a PC is to get on the Internet. Few computer features have the potential to change your life as profoundly as the Web and email.
There are all kinds of ways to get your PC onto the Internet these days:
WiFi. Wireless hotspots, known as WiFi, are glorious conveniences, especially if you have a laptop. Without stirring from your hotel bed, you’re online at high speed. Sometimes for free.
Cable modems, DSL. Over half of the U.S. Internet population connects over higher-speed wires, using broadband connections that are always on: cable modems, DSL, or corporate networks. (These, of course, are often what’s at the other end of an Internet hotspot.)
Cellular modems. A few well-heeled individuals enjoy the go-anywhere bliss of USB cellular modems, which get them online just about anywhere they can make a phone call. These modems are offered by Verizon, Sprint, AT&T, and so on, and usually cost $60 a month.
Tethering. Tethering is letting your cellphone act as a glorified Internet antenna for your PC, whether connected by a cable or a Bluetooth wireless link. The phone company charges you maybe $20 a month extra for this convenience.
Dial-up modems. It’s true: Plenty of people still connect to the Internet using a modem that dials out over ordinary phone lines. They get cheap service but slow connections, ...