At one time Internet access used to be fairly expensive, but it has now become much cheaper and there is a whole range of ways to connect. In recent years it has become much easier to connect to the Internet using mobile devices such as Smartphones and Tablets, which are effectively small computers.
The biggest distinction between Internet connections is whether they are wired or wireless. If you have a computer with Internet access at home, you will probably have an ADSL router, similar to the one shown in the picture, or a Cable Modem, which allows you receive cable TV as well as connecting to the Internet.
An ADSL Router allows you to connect to the Internet using your home telephone line. Most routers support both wired and wireless access. If your computer is located close to the router it will probably use a wired connection and be linked directly to the router by a cable. Most routers allow up to four wired connections. Cable Modems provide similar facilities, but via fibre optic cable rather than the telephone line.
If your computer, for example a Laptop or a Tablet, is in another room you will probably connect to the router or modem via a wireless or WiFi connection.
Another possible method is to let your computer connect to the Internet via your Smartphone, using the phone’s mobile data connection (3G connection), which is completely independent of the router. If your phone is on a contract (rather than Pay As You Go) you might have a certain amount of Internet access included in the contract without any additional cost.
However you should note that wireless connections (whether WiFi or 3G) tend to be slower and less reliable than wired connections. Smartphone (3G) access can be expensive, particularly if you are travelling abroad. WiFi access is generally faster than 3G and is often available via “hotspots” in coffee shops, stations or airports. However WiFi speeds can drop of a number of users are sharing the connection.
It is likely that the cost of 3G connections will decrease in future and that speed and reliability will improve, so this will become an increasingly popular way of accessing the Internet.
Visit this page on the BBC WebWise site for additional information about Connecting to the Internet.