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Chapter 17. Getting on the Internet > Getting Started on Your Road to the Inter... - Pg. 198

Getting on the Internet 198 Windows Wisdom Most people find that they spend a ton of time on the Internet for the first few months as they discover all the wonders and weirdness that's available. After they get used to everything, their connection time drops dramatically. · It's important to note that most plans charge you by the minute or by the hour if you exceed the number of hours the plan offers. These charges can be exorbitant (a buck or two an hour), so you don't want to get into that. Therefore, you need to give some thought to how much time you plan to spend online. That's hard to do at this stage, I know, but you just need to ballpark it. If in doubt, get a plan with a large number of hours (say, 100 or 150). You can always scale it back later on. · Most major ISPs offer an "unlimited usage" plan. This means you can connect whenever you want for as long as you want, and you just pay a set fee per month (usually around US$20). This is a good option to take for a few months until you figure out how often you use the Internet. · If you have a newish modem, then it probably supports a faster connection speed called 56K (or sometimes V.90). If so, make sure the ISP you choose also supports 56K. · Make sure the ISP offers a local access number to avoid long-distance charges. If that's not an option, make sure they offer access via a toll-free number. (Note: Watch out for extra charges for the use of the toll-free line.) Even better, some nationwide ISPs offer local access in various cities across the land. This is particularly useful if you do a lot of traveling. · Make sure the ISP offers a local or toll-free number for technical support. · I recommend only dealing with large ISPs. There are still plenty of fly-by-night operations out there, and they're just not worth the hassle of dropped connections, busy signals, lack of support, going belly-up when you most need them, and so on. · If you can't decide between two or more ISPs, see what extra goodies they offer: space for your own Web pages, extra e-mail accounts, Internet software bundles, and so on. To help you compare major ISPs, Windows XP's Internet Connection Wizard has a feature that can display rates and special offers from the companies that provide Internet access in your area. Getting Started on Your Road to the Internet The Windows XP installation program has a section where it offers to set up an Internet connection. This means that there's a good chance your computer is already Net-friendly. To find out, select Start, Internet. If Internet Explorer starts and takes you to a Web page, your Internet connection is a going concern. If you see the New Connection Wizard, instead, then you've got a few hoops that you still need to jump through.