It's often possible to use the Internet extensively for as little as $20 a month, but finding the right business to connect you at this reasonable rate has been a problem.
Now, Boardwatch Magazine, published in Littleton, Colo., has put out a directory of 1,447 Internet Service Providers (ISP) that is as easy to use as your local phone directory.
The editors have organized the directory by area codes. Look up Boston's area code 617, for example, and you'll find 61 ISPs that will be glad to hook you up. Alaska's area code 907 has 14 ISPs listed. Area code 809, serving most of the Caribbean, has 13 ISPs listed.
Among other things, the book shows each ISP's home city, voice phone number, fee schedules, and whether it offers ISDN service - a high-speed connection.
Jack Rickard, Boardwatch's editor, explains that the goal of the exhaustive list is to "level the playing field between the small [ISPs] and the giants," which include Microsoft, America Online, Compuserve, MCI, IBM, Sprint.
The giants, which advertise extensively, often have small monthly fees but also charge hourly use fees of up to $5, so that a user might incur monthly bills of $70 to $100 or more, the editors say.
Boardwatch's directory, with an update due out June 17, is available at many newsstands and major book and computer stores. It can be ordered by calling 800-933-6038 or from the World Wide Web site at http://www.boardwatch.com.