4. Arrange for Internet service.

Photo of Eric in the computer lab

Access to the Internet from your camp requires an electronic connection between your computers and a server computer that is already connected to the Internet. The server is usually a more powerful computer than the computers your campers use. It provides much of the software necessary to manage your accounts, direct Internet traffic, and access Internet tools and resources. Once you have located the computers you will use and have made sure they have network capabilities via modems or network cards, you need to arrange for Internet service if the facility does not already have Internet access. If you already have a connection, ask your service provider or system administrator to let you know what Internet tools are available on your host system and how to best access them.

If your facility is not already connected to the Internet, you may be able to purchase accounts through a local commercial Internet service provider (ISP). Someone with technical expertise will need to complete this task. There are many options for getting connected to the Internet. Contact Internet service providers in your region and ask about options for connecting through their service and find out the cost of a connection that will provide you with the tools that you need for your Internet program. A local library, college, or yellow pages of the telephone directory may be able to refer you to Internet service providers; or, take a look at the WWW site at www.thelist.com for information on Internet service providers in your area.

Many Internet service providers offer connections to the Internet and different service providers offer different kinds of network connections and services. Options vary in cost, speed, and range of Internet tools supported. Whoever the provider, there are several issues to consider.

  • You need to know what services are provided with the account. For example, you will at least need access to the World Wide Web.
  • You also need unlimited access from a local telephone number. Beware of providers that require a long distance phone call for the connection.
  • You also need to find out what the service will cost. A flat rate is preferable to an hourly usage fee.
  • In addition, find out what kind of support the ISP can provide. Some may be willing to become involved in camp activities.

Internet connectivity discussions can get very technical very fast. Let's skip the jargon and review a layman's description of options for connecting to the Internet. Thus, the descriptions below are oversimplified by design and are meant to provide an overview of the process rather than a complete set of instructions.

Using High Speed Data Lines to Connect your Camp Computers

The fastest and most expensive way to connect your camp to the Internet is through a direct connection. There are different types of high speed data, including 56KB, T1, and T3. The more speed and capacity, the greater the cost. Your computers will need to be networked together to connect to the single high speed line. Your local telephone company and ISP can provide more information about cost and availability for your area. See Case Studies #1, #2, #5, and #6 at the end of this section to learn about specific camps who use high speed Internet connections.

Using Telephone Lines to Connect your Camp Computers

You can use standard telephone lines to connect your camp computers to the Internet. A device called a modem allows each computer to connect to the Internet over a telephone line. You will usually need a modem, separate phone lines, and an ISP account for each computer. This option can get expensive and you'll have a lot of lines in your lab but, for some camps, this is the only reasonable way to get connected for a short period. It is also a great way to experiment with an Internet program at your camp without making a long-term, expensive investment. See Case Studies #3 and #4 to learn about camps who used modems, phone lines, and an ISP to gain Internet access for their programs.

Using Other Access Methods

The Internet can also be accessed through satellite transmission, although this type of access is not common. In addition, cable television companies are gearing up to offer Internet access through their cable lines. Cable access promises to offer the functionality of a direct connection at a cost that is reasonable for home use. Technologies will continue to emerge to make Internet access faster and cheaper, bringing more functionality to your desktop, wherever it might be.