What is Wifi?

Learn about what Wifi is and how to connect

The term WiFi refers to a technology in use in many of today's electronics, computers and game systems that allows wireless access to a network. This wireless network may be connected to the outside world through the Internet, or it may be an internal network run and maintained by a private party. WiFi allows the user to roam free of any wires or cables within the range of the signal. This allows users to surf the Internet on a laptop in any room of a house, for example, without the need to plug in.

One of the more exciting uses for WiFi is in large city areas where a user can roam from one end of the city to the other and potentially have an always-on Internet connection. Some cities are even starting to roll out municipal services where businesses or taxpayers offset the cost of the service so city citizens can have free access to the Internet through WiFi.

A WiFi signal, or a wireless signal, can be "open" or "closed". An open connection allows any user with the available hardware to access the network without having to know a password. These networks are created by users wishing to share their connection with others, businesses wishing to attract more customers or to provide a service, or even people who don't know how to set up a secure network of their own, often leaving default values on their WiFi router. A closed connection provides security to the network through a password or phrase that only those allowed to access the network know. Even if you have the appropriate hardware, you cannot access these networks without knowing the password.

Most of today's modern laptops come preinstalled with hardware that allows the computer to connect with WiFi networks. If you are searching for a new laptop computer, be sure to ask the manufacturer or salesperson if the one you are considering has WiFi access capabilities. If you already own one, please contact your manufacturer.