If you've ordered cable-modem or DSL service, a technician may come to your house to do all the necessary wiring and configuration for you. All you have to do is be home to let the technician in.

In some cases, however especially if you already have cable TV or phone service you may be offered a self-installation kit. As thanks for doing the cable person's job, a tasty discount is usually part of this arrangement.

If you opt for the self-installation route, your kit probably contains the modem itself, a software CD, an Ethernet or USB cable to connect to your computer, a splitter box to divide your incoming cable line into two, and paperwork containing account names, numbers, and passwords.

The company's setup instructions will probably direct you to unscrew the round coaxial cable that runs from the wall to the back of the cable box and attach the splitter. Then you use the additional cable provided to connect one side of the splitter to the cable box, and the other side to the back of the cable modem. Use the Ethernet or USB cable to connect the cable modem to the computer's network (Ethernet) or USB port.

After everything's all plugged in, the wrapup steps differ slightly depending on whether you're using Windows or a Macintosh.

Wrapping up the Windows setup
Dig the CD out of the box, put it in your computer, and run the setup program on it. You'll be asked to plug in the account information from the cable or DSL company: your new account name, password, and so on. Your provider should also supply the settings and information you need to set up your new email address; see Section for instructions on how to configure an email account.

CDs that come with broadband kits are designed to take your hand and walk you through the setup process. If you've got a fistful of account settings, user names, and passwords from your providerand no fear of your computer's control panelsyou can also manually plug in your new connection settings. Choose Start Control Panel Network Connections and then choose "Create a new connection." Click "Connect to the Internet" and then click Next.

On the next screen, click the button for "Set up my connection manually." Click Next again.

The next box presents you with two choices for a broadband connection: one that requires a user name and password and one that's always on. In most cases these days, you use the "always on" option, but check the papers from your ISP.

If your connection is always on, click Next to finish up. If your ISP requires a name and password to use your connection (some DSL providers do), the next few screens walk you through typing in the user name and password.

Wrapping up the Mac OS X setup
Once the cable modem or DSL box is connected to your Mac's Ethernet jack, you should be able to get online immediately; no software installation is generally necessary.

The beauty of cable modems and DSL service is that they offer a geeky but wonderful feature called DHCP, which means, "I'll configure all the network settings for you." Open your Web browser and enjoy.

Sharing a Broadband Connection
You're paying good money each month for that speedy broadband connection. If you have more than one computer around the house in need of Internet access, you can share your DSL or cable connection with the other, less fortunate machines. You do this by setting up a home network.

A home network is like your own personal Internet: All the computers in your house can share files, use the same printer, and divide up the high-speed Internet connection so everyone in the house can surf on their own Macs or PCs.

To create a basic home network, you need to buy an inexpensive, compact metal or plastic box called a router. It offers one jack for your broadband modem and several others for network cables from all your computers. Once you plug in the modem and network cables between the router and each computer, the router divides your modem's pipeline among the connected computers so they can all be online at once.

That's all the setup you'll have to worry aboutclick Apply Now. If your settings are correct, you're online, now and forever. You never have to worry about connecting or disconnecting.