Control of the Web

Internet Access Help

Getting On the Internet
Public Access Options
Accessible Webpages

There are several inexpensive ways to get online. Just since I started writing this, in January 2000, there has been an explosion in free ISP services.

Borrowed time: It is quite possible to accomplish everything important to you online in under one hour a day (unless you get obsessed with it, like Anitra.) Many libraries, colleges, and community centers have public access terminals. You could use public terminals to get started, sign up for a Hotmail email account and a Tripod website, and you are On the Web. An alternative, if your city is limited in public access terminals, is finding a friend or a friendly company that does have Internet access and is willing to let you have access for a few hours a week.

On your own power: What you will need to have your own access under your own control in your own location:

Physical needs: You will need at least a computer, a modem, and a phone line.

Older but still useful computers and modems are fairly easy to get as donations if you have a 501(c)3 (Federal non-profit tax-exempt status), but you may still get donations from sympathetic groups or individuals if you do not have a 501(c)3. If you have a problem drumming up donations locally, try to work through a friend in Seattle or another high-tech city.

You are going to need a phone, one way or another. The same line that you use for your office phone can be used for the computer modem. You can get a switch from Radio Shack for 2-3 dollars that will let you connect both the computer and the phone to the same jack.

Internet Service Provider (ISP): This is the main bottleneck. Once you are online there is a slew of free email providers, webspace providers, and all-other-service providers. But you need a provider to get you connected to the Internet, first.

Check out your local community network. This may also be called the "freenet". Seattle Community Network provides free email accounts, with web space, to individuals and nonprofits. Universities and colleges often have their own Internet networks, and may be generous with an organization like a street newspaper.

Look for a deal: Check your local area for ISP's who may be willing to provide a special rate for a nonprofit or grassroots group. Real Change gets ISP service, webspace and a domain name from in return for advertising. ISP's that end in "org" are nonprofits -- they may be especially favorable to the idea, but don't rule anyone out. Go ahead and ask.

Inexpensive ISP's: I have a webpage on the Real Change site on finding an ISP; it's at

Free ISP's: Most free servers require getting access to a website to signup and download the software. This Catch-22 can be resolved by borrowing access, downloading the software to a floppy disk, then installing it on your own computer.

Before You Go Free

Some discussions of the pros and cons of "free access":


Below are some free ISP’s that have some special aspect, like Canadian availability or Macintosh compatibility.

PC (meaning IBM or compatible, instead of Macintosh) free access services:
U.S. and Canada

U.S. only

Macintosh: There are less free-access offers for Macintosh users, but they are growing:

Once You’re On:

A Portal Page with pointers to email service, webspace, search engines and other Net uses:

See you in Virtual!

Getting On the Internet
Public Access Options
Accessible Webpages

SJCPL list of libraries with Internet services
Over 500 public libraries worldwide
Yahoo! Yellow Pages library finder
Find a library: optional map, driving/walking directions
The above is from Mike Davidson's Homeless People and the Internet. There's more useful information there, too.

Don't forget the kids!
Having trouble finding access info for children? Here's one site that focuses on resources for the young ones. This link may not work -- the site server seems to have periodic problems. If you would like to make a call, please hang up and try again.

Homeless Finding Room on the 'Net
An excellent article from the Washington Post about internet access through the libraries.

Homeless Women's Network
A Seattle-based organization working to increase access to computers and the Internet for homeless women and children.

Getting On the Internet
Public Access Options
Accessible Webpages

Getting as Wide an Audience as Possible
While Still Putting on a Fancy Show

A few tips if you want to be seen by more than the select few
trying out their new and cutting-edge browsers and plug-ins.

  1. There are vast numbers of people on the Internet who aren't even using graphic browsers -- they see text, and text only. All images show up as the stunningly informative [IMAGE], or perhaps the equally evocative [INLINE] -- unless you have had the forethought to include the attribute ALT="This is the cutest picture of a cat you never did see." in your IMG tag. Thalia, with Guinness EXAMPLE: If you are using a graphics browser and all is right with the world, you see a picture of The Muse Thalia, with Guinness. If you are using a text browser, or one of the Internet's Immortal Imps has interrupted transmission, chewed on and corrupted my image file, or some other imaginative trick, you see the words "Thalia, with Guinness".

    The code for this reads <IMG SRC="thalia.gif" height=144 width=164 ALT="Thalia, with Guinness" ALIGN=right>

    Other reasons for using the ALT tag:

  2. That image tag brings up a tip about speed. Not everybody on the Web, regrettably, is willing to wait five minutes to see all your stunning effects -- you would be amazed to know how few are, really. But if you give them something  to begin to read, they might still be around when all the images finally download. The way to do this is to include the WIDTH and HEIGHT attributes in every IMG tag -- as I did above. This makes the images appear to load faster because it allows the server to immediately begin filling in the text around the places where the images will be. It gives search engines more keywords to index for your page. And those using software to read a page to them will hear your ALT text.
  3. Not everyone using the internet has precisely  your tastes in music, or is presently in a position to indulge it. If a visitor to your site suddenly finds "Boogie Nights" bursting from his speakers all over the office floor in the middle of the morning, or waking the baby in the middle of the night, he might not be back. It is considerate to place the controls within his reach. [Music Controls]
    Here is the code I used:
    <EMBED SRC="fjvar.mid" controls=smallconsole height=15 width=55 AUTOSTART=true LOOP=true VOLUME=32>
    <FONT SIZE=-2>[Music Controls]</FONT>
    <BGSOUND SRC="fjvar.mid" autostart=true loop=true VOLUME=32>

    That music, by the way, is "Frere Jacques Variations" by Greg Spence, used with his permission. I didn't realize until recently that all those "free midi" sites out there don't always have permission to store and give away those midis. This midi, which I got direct from the composer, is the only midi I still display, is the only one I still display, until I have contacted the composers of all the others I once downloaded from "free midi" sites.
  4. Frames can be lovely, frames can be useful -- and if someone whose browser is not frame-capable happens on your site, you might as well not have a webpage. Setting up an alternative for non-frame browsers is quick and easy -- after the </FRAMESET> tag, write <NOFRAMES>, then code the page that the no-frame browser will see, then write </NOFRAMES>. You can see an example of this in Seattle Jabberwalk. Feel free to look at the source code.

  5. For love and pity, if you are going to use Java scripts, test them out thoroughly against several kinds of browsers before uploading them. Personally, I get rather tired of pressing "OK" on the Java Error Message pop-up, just because I have a Netscape 2.02 and you have a Supercallifragelisticexpiallidocious. And if you are really depending on the input from a Java routine, be aware that your text-browser audience ain't gonna give it to you -- so provide an alternative form.

  6. The same goes for Flash! If you have a Flash menu, you have just blocked your site off from everyone who doesn't have the Flash plug-in, and some people don't want it. Nobody is going to download something they don't want, that takes up space on their hard drive, just to look at your site. And if you have a Flash intro, please provide a bypass link. It may be fascinating, but the 92nd time I've seen it the fascination wears off. Do you want people coming back again, or what?
  7. Netscape 2.02 browsers are not going to see any of the colors you defined for your tables, rows, and columns. They are going to see only the color you set for the page as a whole in the BODY tag. If you set the overall page to black and set each particular cell to a different bright color, with black lettering in it, you would have a very vivid web page -- to advanced browsers. To the older generation of browsers, you would be invisible -- a portrait of a black cat at midnight in the coal factory. However, according to my webpage stats, Netscape 2.0 is extinct.

  8. More about webpage accessibility from Joy Ikelman.

  9. Unified Web Site Accessibility Guidelines

  10. ADA & Disability Information

  11. Test your webpage accessibility with Bobby.

  12. I'm sure there's more. There are more sites that explain them, too. Feel free to email me with any suggestions.

Getting On the Internet
Public Access Options
Accessible Webpages

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