Do I Need WiFi to Get on the Internet?

Looking to install home internet?

Check availability

Photograph of a young Asian woman enjoying her tablet using wifi internet in her warmly lit living room on a cozy evening at home

Home internet access has become a crucial way to connect to your friends, family, and favorite entertainment options.

But to the uninitiated, navigating a home internet hookup can mean dealing with a lot of new terms and concepts.

Never fear, Optimum can explain.

Is there a difference between WiFi and the Internet?


WiFi is a wireless networking technology using radio waves to provide wireless high-speed Internet access. It is a common misconception that the term WiFi is short for "wireless fidelity". It is a trademarked phrase referring to IEEE 802.11x standards.

The Internet itself is the worldwide network of servers, emails, websites, apps, social media, streaming services, video chat platforms, and other software tools people use to communicate with each other.

So while you can use WiFi to connect to the Internet, you don’t have to.

So is there such a thing as non-WiFi Internet?


In fact, all of the information on the Internet passes through wires at some point. These can be fiber optic cables that send data to and from the physical servers (basically a fancy computer without a screen) that host most of the information on the Internet.

They can also be coaxial cables that bring data signals from those fiber optic transmissions into your home, or ethernet cables that connect computers, servers and networks to each other.

In terms of home Internet hookups, it’s possible to connect to the Internet using an ethernet cord between a computer and your router/modem device.

Why do people use WiFi?

Cellular data uses the satellite communication methods used to connect cell phone calls. These transmissions can be converted to Internet data signals and back, which is what allows you to do things like check your email on a smart phone without being connected to the Internet via WiFi.

A "Hotspot" also uses cellular data. When you're using a "hotspot," it transmits data signals from your computer to your phone, and from your phone to the Internet and back via cellular data. Hotspots are different than WiFi in this respect, although you might see the two words misleadingly combined or switched.

National cell networks offer slower connection speeds than the average home Internet WiFi, and using a lot of cellular data can sometimes result in overage charges, depending on whether your cellular service contract includes unlimited data.

Interested in setting up an unlimited cellular data plan?

Try Optimum Mobile

A young woman in her brightly lit kitchen leaning on her counter in the early morning, enjoying her coffee and tablet connected over wifi

How do I set up WiFi in my home?

If you have home internet access, you might already have WiFi capability. Contact your Internet service provider to see if you have the right equipment.

If you don't have home Internet but want to make sure you can connect via WiFi, mention this when you first contact a home Internet service provider. When you sign up, they'll send a technician to your house with the necessary equipment, usually including a wireless router and modem combination device that plugs into your wall near the incoming Internet cable.

The technician will ask you to name your home Internet WiFi network, and will work with you to set up a password (definitely recommended for security reasons).

TIP: Both your network name and exact case-sensitive password will be important to remember. Write them down and keep them handy.

After your home WiFi network is connected and running, you can connect to the Internet via WiFi using multiple devices at once.

All you'll need to do is select your own home WiFi network from the list of local networks in whatever prompt your device offers for "turn WiFi on," and then enter the password. As long as the signal is strong enough, you'll be using WiFi in no time.

Why does everybody keep asking for the WiFi password?

A majority of WiFi networks are protected by password for security reasons. After all, you wouldn't want every device in your home talking to a stranger's computer.

Some WiFi networks are password-free. These open networks often exist in public places, such as libraries, airports, or college campuses, where reliable Internet access is especially important.

The big thing to remember about WiFi networks: they are localized to within a limited range.

So you won't be able to access the Internet from your home Internet WiFi network when you're across town. Instead, you must use a password to connect to the Internet through the WiFi networks available wherever you are, provided there are no open networks. Mobile devices pick up nearby signals automatically, and display them as a list of options.

This is why guests in your home may ask for your WiFi network name and password. Without it, they won't be able to connect their mobile device via WiFi to show you that video they saw on Facebook, or search for that recipe they just mentioned in conversation.


Are you getting everything you need from your home Internet?

Check availability

You May Also Like

Check availability

See if Optimum is available for your home.



See if Optimum is available for your home:

Find special offers in your area

Already an Optimum customer?

Sign in to add enhanced services to your account now.