Published Works,  Technology Column

Tech 20

Tech #20
September 19, 1997

With a week in between to describe my hard drive crash, Tech resumes this week with part two in a series on getting on-line service. There are many options, but it boils down to this: a local Internet service provider (ISP) or a national one. Since there are hundreds of ISPs, we’ll address only the major players.

National ISPs fall into two groups. Discounters and full service providers like America On Line and CompuServe. With any service there are trade offs. AOL is truly easy to use but getting customer service can be next to impossible. It took no less than eight minutes on-hold just to get a real person on the phone. CompuServe was only a little faster. Still, if you are brand new to this Internet thing I would recommend AOL or CompuServe. The rates are high compared to most other providers. Both will give you five hours on line for $9.95 and then $2.95 an hour. With both you get a home page and full e-mail. Unlimited access to the net on AOL will run you $19.95, on CompuServe it’s a whopping $24.95.

The list of discount national ISPs would have to mention Errols. Pay in advance for three years and unlimited access will set you back $9.95 a month, which includes a home page and e-mail. If you don’t want a long term commitment check out MCI or AT&T WorldNet. Both are $19.95 with e-mail. AT&T has a limited plan for $4.95. Long distance customers get five hours on-line, non-customers get three – then it’s $2.50 per hour. Next time out we’ll start looking at Hampton Roads ISPs.