This web site was copied prior to January 20, 2005. It is now a Federal record managed by the National Archives and Records Administration. External links, forms, and search boxes may not function within this collection.
Remember the days when a personal
computer was the only product that would let you surf
the Internet and send and receive email? They're history!
Now, consumers have choices: television
set-top receivers, handheld computers or "personal
digital assistants," dedicated email terminals,
game consoles, and even some wireless phones are providing
access to many features of the Internet. In many
cases, these products are easier to use and less expensive
to purchase than a PC, and some provide other benefits.
But the fact is that these products
aren't PC's - and they don't provide all the same features
as a PC. Before you buy a product that claims to provide
Internet access, find out what the product can do -
and what it can't.
The Federal Trade Commission, the
federal agency responsible for protecting consumers
from deceptive and unsubstantiated advertising, suggests
that you think about how you plan to use an Internet
access product. Do you want to see and hear music videos
or late-breaking news? Play games alone or with other
people? articipate in chat rooms? Receive email with
photos attached? Connect with your friends through instant
messaging? The manufacturer or retailer is your best
source of information on whether the product you're
considering provides the features you want.
If you're shopping for a product that
will give you Internet access, consider the following:
You probably can't do the same things online with
an Internet access product that you can with a personal
computer. In most cases, a computer lets you access
more information and entertainment than an Internet
access product. It's important to compare the capabilities
of Internet access products to each other and to personal
The limitations of Internet access products may
vary depending on the product and, possibly, the service
it uses to connect to the Internet. For example, a
small display screen on a cellular phone won't give
you the same view of a website as a computer monitor.
Internet access products may not let you play certain
games, use some audio or video features, send or receive
certain attachments to email messages, or view information
in formats like Java or PDF (Portable Document Format).
You may be able to access information in a text format
only. In addition, you may not be able to download
information or software from the Internet to add features
to your new product the same way you can with a PC.
You may have to wait for product upgrades from the
manufacturer or Internet service provider.
To get online, you will have to subscribe to a service
that provides Internet access for the product you
purchase. The Internet access service may be bundled
with the Internet access product you buy. You'll probably
have to pay a monthly subscription fee to connect
to the Internet. Some people - especially in rural
areas - may not be able to access the Internet with
a local telephone call. They may have to pay long
distance phone charges, or hourly surcharges to their
Internet service provider while they're online. Ask
about access charges before you buy.
The FTC works for the consumer to prevent fraudulent, deceptive
and unfair business practices in the marketplace and to provide information
to help consumers spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a
complaint or to get free
information on consumer issues, visit www.ftc.gov
or call toll-free, 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357); TTY: 1-866-653-4261. The
FTC enters Internet, telemarketing, identity theft, and other fraud-related
Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to hundreds of civil
and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad.