It's happened to everyone. You're calmly browsing the Web, when all of a sudden, the page won't load. You try another page, but still nothing. Your e-mail's not coming through either. Then you realize -- the Internet's broken.
When it comes time to call customer service, you have several choices: You can call the cable company, the company that built your computer, or Apple or Microsoft, depending on your operating system. But who to call? Let us walk you through finding out what's broken, and who to contact to fix it.
First, when the Internet goes down, check to see if your computer is picking up other wireless networks in your area. On both Mac and Windows machines, the icon for wireless networks is located by the clock. If your computer isn't showing any other networks in the area, and your modem and router are plugged in, then the problem is probably with your wireless card. That's a hardware problem, and you need to call customer service for the company that manufactured your machine.
If your computer is registering other networks, then the next step involves cycling the modem. Simply unplug the modem's power cord, count to 15 (with the Mississippis), and then plug the modem back in. Doing this resets the modem's IP and DHCP addresses, which are like phone numbers that the modem and your computer dial to talk to each other. If they are dialing different numbers, then they can't bring you your websites. At this point, if your computer isn't registering your wireless network, then it's time to call your Internet service provider.
Sometimes, your computer will recognize your wireless signal, but tell you there's "limited connectivity." This could be another communication problem between your computer and the router or modem. You need to go into the connections utility (located in different places on Macs and PCs) and hit the "Renew DHCP Lease" button. This does basically the same thing as cycling the modem.
Still no Internet? Well, this could be a software problem. However, don't call Apple or Microsoft. Your cable company has the most experience with these problems, and should be able to help you fix software problems, too.