April 16th, 2019 by GSC Customer Care

While these terms are related, they do not mean the same thing.

Most of us access the internet many times each day — from our laptops, our smartphones, or even our smart TVs. More often than not, we’re using a wireless network for our connection. Some people use the terms “internet” and “Wi-Fi” interchangeably, but they are different elements of the technology ecosystem that keeps us connected.

The Internet Is a Highway 
The internet has been called the Information Superhighway and with good reason. Just like a road that connects two cities and moves people and goods, the internet is a digital maze of routes that connects thousands of computer networks so they can exchange bits of information. Using an agreed-upon language (called the Internet Protocol), these interconnected devices use the internet’s digital “roads” to exchange data that is then translated into human-consumable form at the other end. It’s what allows you to send an email, picture, or video to someone who’s across the street or across the country.

This vast network of digital routes allows computers to talk to each other from anywhere in the world as long as they’re connected to it. There are several ways to connect to the internet (i.e. to merge onto to this “superhighway”).

To connect to your Internet Service Provider’s network from your home, you’re given access to a physical line. If this line is a fiber-optic cable, it may be connected to a modem, to a device known as a GigaCenter or GigaHub, or to your own router. If your ISP has a copper or coax network, the line would be connected to a modem.

There are two ways to connect a computer to a modem. The first method involves physically plugging the computer into the port on the back of the modem using an Ethernet cable. The second method, which is much more common today, uses a wireless connection made possible by a device called a Wi-Fi router. The Wi-Fi router can be physically plugged into the modem with a cable or combined with the modem into a single piece of equipment. It uses radio technology to broadcast a unique name (also known as a service set identifier, or SSID), which you or your ISP chooses when the router is first set up.

Wi-Fi Is an Access Ramp 
The introduction of the Wi-Fi standard revolutionized the way people accessed the internet. Wi-Fi refers to a wireless network that allows computers, smartphones, or other devices within a particular area to connect to the internet (and each other) without being physically connected by a cable.

Because information is transferred using wireless transmitters and radio signals, physical proximity to the Wi-Fi router is necessary for a good connection. But once connected, people can move around freely with their devices without losing their connection to the internet.

Understanding the Challenges of Wi-Fi 
By removing the need for a physical connection to access the internet, Wi-Fi lets people take the internet with them almost everywhere they go. This leap in technology means more than just being able to work from your local coffee shop. Businesses use Wi-Fi-enabled handheld devices to streamline processes and speed up customer service.

Yet, as convenient as Wi-Fi is, it doesn’t automatically solve your networking problems. For example, having a strong Wi-Fi connection doesn’t necessarily mean you have a good internet connection — or that you’re connected to the internet at all. It just means that your device can communicate with the Wi-Fi router.

The other concern is security. Wi-Fi routers are designed to allow all Wi-Fi-enabled devices that are “in range” to connect, which is not always desirable, especially if someone wants to use your Wi-Fi network to piggy-back on your internet service. For this reason, you should make sure your home Wi-Fi network is password-protected so that only authorized users can connect to it. Furthermore, when you access someone else’s Wi-Fi network, the owner of that network can potentially see all the information you’re sending and receiving, including user names and passwords.

A Powerful Combination 
As long as you understand the difference between the internet and Wi-Fi, and take steps to protect yourself from online threats, you can connect from virtually anywhere without worry.

©2019 Cornerstone Publishing Group Inc.