8 WebsiteCompass Internet Connections Differentiating the Internet fromWi-Fi While these terms are related, they do not mean the same thing M ost 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.