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Email 101 Part 3

(1) Your PC may have a direct connection. This means that it is part of a Local Area Network (LAN) that is in turn connected to one of the component Wide Area Networks of the Internet. Your computer will have its own Internet Protocol (IP) Address. This type of connection is common in offices, especially of high-tech firms, but definitely not for home use.

(2) You may have a connection to a "host" computer that is directly connected to the net. If you can use a modem to connect your home PC to the mainframe at the office and the mainframe is on the net, then you can get an Internet connection that way. But what if your office doesn't have a mainframe on the net? You can still subscribe to a service that makes a host computer available to the public. This is presently the cheapest and most common method for public access to the net.

(3) There is a connection method in between cases (1) and (2) called a Serial Line Internet Protocol (SLIP) connection. You dial up a special host computer--just like case (2)--called a SLIP-server. The difference is that the SLIP server gives you a temporary IP address and talks to your computer using the Internet Protocol. This requires your computer's software to speak SLIP. Your computer thinks it is using case (1) even though your actual connection is closer to step 2. The advantage of fooling your terminal into thinking it has a direct connection is that it can use all the fancy, free software developed for computers with direct connections.

The software for a SLIP connection is being built into all new communications software. If you just bought or upgraded your software, you probably have SLIP capability already. The catch? SLIP is too slow on a cheap 2400 baud modem. But if you buy a fast FAX modem it works fine. That's one reason that a $350 FAX modem is a good investment. It is fast enough for SLIP and gives you the ability to send and receive FAXes as well.

SLIP technology is still rather new and somewhat experimental, so this discussion will focus on the old reliable--method 2. How do you find a service that will give the public access to the Internet?

Depending on where you live, you may have a provider you can call in your local area code. If not, then most of your problem will be finding the cheapest way to make a long distance phone call. This book does not have a list of providers, since such a list will get out of date rapidly. Instead, it gives you one cheap way to get on the Internet, then gives you instructions on how to find out who the providers are and what their rates are. I would rather teach you how to look out for yourself than just give you some outdated advice. This method also has the advantage that one set of instructions works for everybody. That wouldn't be true if I listed 20 or 30 providers. Instructions are given in "Gettin on the Internet Step by Step."

Types of Internet Providers

As I said, most of the problem of getting on the net occurs when you live in an area that doesn't have a LOCAL provider. Basically there are three kinds of providers and three ways to get to them:

(1) Providers of direct connections. If you are setting up a business and need a high volume direct connection for your office Local Area Network and can afford several thousand a year at least, you will want to consider these high-end providers. They are not relevant to our discussion. (But see Appendix C for more information).

(2) There are several regional networks and one national one that specialize in low cost PC-to-host or SLIP connections. Costs range from $20-40 a month to $2000 a year, depending on the services you need.

Performance Systems International (PSI) is a major provider of this kind of service. Other networks offer services similar to PSI, although PSI has the most extensive nationwide service at this time. This service can be very competitive with BBS type service (see below) if you are a frequent user of the net or need to send more than an occasional E-mail message. It is definitely worth a look.

(3) Many computer bulletin board services offer E-mail or even Internet connections for around $10-20 per month. Be very careful to check out the connection charges. If you are not careful you could be charged for using the bulletin board (per hour), using the Internet, the long-distance connection, a surcharge for daytime use, and a per message charge for E-mail! One of the purposes of this book is to explain the minefield of charges so you don't get burned. The service recommended bundles all the charges up front so there are no surprises.

Generally speaking, connecting to the Internet through a BBS is the best method for the explorer. Once you've determined that you need the Internet on a regular basis, one of the regional networks or PSI is probably the most economical route.

Unless you are fortunate enough to live in an area where an Internet provider is a local call away, you will have to contend with long distance charges. Actually, these can be as low as $2 an hour and are sometimes bundled in with the network connection charge.

Finding the Cheapest Long Distance Method

There are three basic methods of paying for long distance:

(1) You just pay for a call to another area code. This is very expensive and not recommended.

(2) You use a provider with a toll free (800) number and pay for the call in a higher connect charge. This is also very expensive.

(3) You use a Public Data Network after hours and pay around $2 an hour (may be included).

Actually, the last method is the only workable one. There are a number of PDN's.

CompuServe has a data network. You do not have to join CompuServe to use it.

PSI has its own data network with many points of presence around the US and abroad. These are divided into Class A and Class B, depending on the level of service provided.

Tymenet and SprintNet are two other public data networks. You may have heard of the SprintNet service PC Pursuit. For a monthly fee this gives you many BBS nationwide as well as any computer that can be reached by SprintNet.

In general, for a first experiment we recommend the DELPHI BBS and SprintNet. DELPHI includes the SprintNet surcharge in its $13/month bill (after hours use only--daytime is expensive everywhere). At this writing you get 5 free hours the first month and 4 hours per month after that. Additional hours are $4 each. There is also a 20 hours for $20 plan. Additional hours are $2 each with this plan. Detailed instructions on how to sign up are given in "Connecting to the Internet Step by Step."

Who Pays for the Internet?

All this talk of cost may be making you edgy. Eventually, everyone using the Internet must face the fear--if I am calling up a computer in Switzerland won't I be billed for the call? The marvelous thing about the Internet is that although there is plenty of expense involved in getting on it, there is no additional expense associated with what you do after you are connected. THE WHOLE WORLD IS ON LOCAL. Thus, you may have to pay for a $2 an hour call to Massachussetts, for your PC, your modem and software, and a connect fee to your internet provider. But you DO NOT HAVE TO PAY FOR EACH AND EVERY INTERNET CALL.

Since most people find it hard to believe that you can send mail anywhere in the world or dial up a computer on the other side of the globe without paying a special charge, I will spend some time explaining who does pay for the Internet and how those costs are reflected back to the user. One way or another you do pay for network usage, but these payments are not in the form of a direct billing for each call.

First, you already know that there is no Internet, Inc. that monitors all the calls and bill customers. Instead there are hundreds of smaller networks that act as relays. Those networks *could* charge their customers for each call, based on how much time it takes and where it goes, but since no one is charging them, they have no real incentive to pass on costs. Instead they charge a flat fee--usually based on connect time, but for a 24 hour connection just a flat yearly fee.

Now network traffic does use up resources. Basically, the Internet works like a potluck supper. Everyone with a direct connection allows some of their system resources to be used by messages that are just "passing through". They allow this because other systems allow them the same privilege. Thus, it is in everyone's interest to allow some of their resources to be consumed by other persons' messages, because everyone comes out ahead.

So, sites with direct connections pay real costs in terms of lost computing cycles, extra cabling, fancier equipment, and lost disk space.

These costs are passed on to their customers or shouldered by government subsidy. But there are no direct charges associated with using the system.

In the early days of the Internet, Government subsidy of the backbone networks was crucial. The backbone was built with government funds and it was government funds that paid for the extra equipment needed by the universities and laboratories that carried more traffic than they generated. With the development of commercial nets alternatives to the Government-sponsored backbone arose. The Government subsidy is still important, but becomming less so every year.

So, the short answer is that you pay for the network. You either pay your provider a flat fee or you pay as a taxpayer for Government subsidized network resources. Most of the cost you actually see will be in your own equipment, the cost of placing a phone call, and whatever your provider charges you.

Internet Basics

We've talked a lot about the Internet, but how do you actually use it?

There are three basic skills on which all Internet use is based:

Electronic Mail (E-mail)

File Transfer Protocol (FTP)

Telnet

All three commands rely on the Internet addressing scheme. An Internet "telephone number" of another computer is its Internet Protocol (IP) address, a number that looks like this:

225.225.12.38

This form, called "dotted decimal," is still required by some computers.

But, to make IP addresses easier for humans, this telephone number has another form which is easier to remember:

hoople.usnd.edu

This means that computer ("node") named "hoople" is located at the University of Southern North Dakota. The last component, ".edu", means that the institution is in the educational domain. . Other domain names look like this:

.edu : educational institutions

.gov : government (research laboratories and

.com : commercial businesses

.org : nonprofit organizations

.mil : military installations

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