|Free isn't free if you have to pay for a long distance call just to connect! In some rural areas, long distance calls are still necessary. But if you're in a metro or suburban area, it helps to check the "localness" of the ISPs you're investigating. Click through to the "dotnow" link of a guide site, or point your browser to www.dotnow.com.|
|The screen that comes up is a simple one: enter your area code and dotnow will respond with all its local access numbers in that area code.|
|The fact that there are local access numbers in your area code doesn't mean they're all local calls to you, but you can pick up the phone and try them. Make a pencil-and-paper list of the numbers you think might be local. When it's convenient, try the numbers from a regular telephone. If you hear the tones of a modem answering, it's local. If you get a recording telling you to dial 1 or 0, it's long distance.|
|If you're in an area with local calling access to more than one area code, try the other one now. Add any numbers that "look" local to your tentative list.|
|If you have evaluated free internet providers and have not found an acceptable one with an access phone number local to you, return to your list or guide site listing, and begin evaluating the providers that won't tell you their access numbers until you download their software. Searching through these will be more time consuming, because you must download before evaluating their lists of access numbers.|
|When you've found a suitable access provider, follow their installation instructions. See the tutorial, "How to install."