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The Difference between Internet and Wi-Fi

Do you have Wi-Fi?

These days, Wi-Fi is available just about everywhere. Whether you’re grabbing lunch or getting a workout in, there will likely be at least one Wi-Fi hotspot available. You may hear people talking about not being able to “get on Wi-Fi.” Most of the time, though, the actual issue is that they can’t get their laptop, tablet, or smartphone connected to the internet.

Isn’t Wi-Fi the same as the internet?

No, it’s not. And with home networks getting more sophisticated all the time (wit more and more devices being connected wirelessly as opposed to hardwired) it’s helpful to have a clear understanding of the difference between the two.

So, first, let’s start with the internet. What exactly is it?

The internet is a massive global communications network. As its name suggests, it’s more than just one network– it’s a series of thousands of interconnected networks.

Then what is Wi-Fi?

Wi-Fi is a “wireless” way of connecting to the internet; made possible by a device in your home (or your coffee shop, gym, local library, etc.) called a router. A router is either plugged into a modem or it is combined with the modem into a single piece of equipment called a gateway*.

The Wi-Fi router uses radio technology to broadcast a unique network name (also known as a service set identifier, or SSID). When you’re on your wireless device, you can see a list of Wi-Fi routers nearby such as yours and your neighbors’.

So, is connecting to Wi-Fi the same as connecting to the internet?

The short answer is no, not technically. Just because you’re connected to your Wi-Fi router does not mean that you are also connected to the internet. You might notice from time to time that your computer says you’re connected to Wi-Fi, but you aren’t able to access any websites. This means one of two things: either your modem is not correctly connected to the internet, or your Wi-Fi router is not successfully connected to your modem.

So, the next time that you “get on Wi-Fi,” you’ll know that there is a bit more to it. You are connecting to a router that is then connecting to a modem that is then connecting to the internet.


*read more about Routers, Modems, and Gateways here!