Tech@Work: Missing the Internet Party?

Join in the action with these 6 Internet access tips.

February 1, 1999

Perhaps you’d like to connect to the Internet for the first time, or maybe you’re already online but considering a change in service provider. Read on to save yourself time and effort.

1. Find an ISP.

An Internet service provider will give you an Internet access account, E-mail, and the software to access them.

An ISP is different from companies such as America Online and CompuServe, which offer private networks with Internet access as a secondary benefit.

Because the ISP industry is ripe for consolidation, choose an ISP name you recognize or a regional or national provider that’ll be around tomorrow.

Editor's note: Sites that will help you whittle down your ISP choices include and

2. Reduce hassle with a permanent E-mail address.

Regardless of which provider you choose, you may have to change service someday. That's not a problem with a permanent E-mail address.

Visit to buy a permanent E-mail address (about $15 per year). Or, if you have a home page with realtor®.com, you’re also entitled to a free permanent E-mail address there.

3. Look for an ISP that offers lots of local access numbers; that way, you don’t have to pay long-distance rates when you travel.

ISPs with an abundance of access numbers: IBM, Earthlink, AT&T, and NetCom.

If you do travel, make sure the ISP has an 800 number that you can use to access the Internet and your E-mail when you’re outside their local access areas.

Although there’s usually an hourly fee for 800 access, it’s typically cheaper than a long-distance call.

4. Before you sign up, call an ISP's support line to see whether anyone answers the phone.

5. Just because some companies offer Internet access for $10 per month or less, it doesn’t make them a good deal.

The trade-off for cost is often limited usage or a slow connection, or your charges may go up after the introductory period. Most providers worth their salt charge in the $15-$20 range.

Avoid paying for service in advance to get a lower rate. The company you’ve prepaid may not be around in six months.

A new service ( or 818/879-7255) offers free Internet access. The catch is that in exchange for the freebie, the company places banner ads from a variety of advertisers on your computer screen each time you go online.

If you’re on the Internet a lot, you’ll constantly be moving the banner window out of your way. And the banner stays open in all your applications--not just online. But you can always use this free service to shop around for another ISP or download another ISP's software.

6. Read the fine print for subtle differences in ISP service contracts.

Many unlimited access plans have surcharges for high-volume users, typically those logging more than 100 hours a month. Others place limits on how you can send and receive E-mail. Shop around, and remember that if it sounds too good to be true, it is.

In addition to instructing GRI programs, Stephen Canale has spoken at hundreds of seminars in 45 states, covering subjects relating to real estate sales and technology. For more information on his products, newsletter, and seminars, visit

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