Wi-Fi and the internet are often used interchangeably to mean how you connect online, but they are actually two different technologies. The internet is a global network that connects computers, databases and other devices all around the world, where Wi-Fi is the local wireless network that allows your devices to connect to the internet. 

Wi-Fi and the internet work together to power internet-enabled devices. There are different ways to establish that connection, such as wireless internet, cable, satellite, DSL or fiber internet. Let’s break down the technology that allows us to stream, surf and shop online.

What is Wi-Fi?

Wi-Fi has become a catch-all term for internet since it’s so widely used. Smartphones, tablets, smart TVs, laptops and connected home devices all connect via a Wi-Fi network. Data is transferred from a router to your devices through a local network in your home, office, coffee shop or public library. Without Wi-Fi, each device would need to be plugged into the wall with an ethernet cable. However, Wi-Fi by itself does not create internet access. Without internet services connected to your Wi-Fi network, such as cable, DSL, satellite, dial-up or fiber internet, you won’t be able to get online.

What is Internet?

Internet is what allows you to connect to other devices around the world through a global connection. In order to stream your favorite shows, shop online, game with friends, check your email and video call, an internet connection is required. There are multiple ways to connect to the internet. Thanks to advances in technology, you no longer have to plug your device into an ethernet cable in your wall to get online. Nowadays, most connections are wireless, using Wi-Fi or a cellular network.

What are the Main Differences Between Wi-Fi and Internet?

In short, Wi-Fi is a way to connect to the internet, but it is not the internet itself. Wi-Fi wirelessly distributes internet connections to your devices through a router in your home, and that connection can come from many different sources.

Local vs. Global Connection

A key difference between the two is that Wi-Fi is a local connection, while internet is a global connection. The internet connects devices around the world through a network of servers, routers and other infrastructure, whereas Wi-Fi’s connection only reaches a limited space around your home or office.

Wired vs. Wireless

Most people access the internet through a wired or wireless connection. Plugging an ethernet cable directly into your device provides more bandwidth than a wireless connection, perfect for streaming HD video, multiplayer gaming and sharing large files. However, having your device plugged in limits mobility, so it works best for stationary devices, such as a desktop computer or streaming TV box. A wireless connection via Wi-Fi can handle most routine online activities without the hassle and clutter of cords, but speeds are limited compared to ethernet.

How Does Fiber Fit Into All of This?

Fiber internet is an alternative to traditional connections, such as cable, satellite, dial-up and wireless internet. Instead of utilizing electric currents like other internet connections, fiber internet uses light signals delivered through fiber-optic cables. Data moves quicker through these cables, giving you faster upload and download speeds than other services. You also gain access to more bandwidth to connect all your devices at once without lagging, buffering or glitching. The connection from fiber is more reliable, too, since inclement weather and electrical interference don’t impact performance.

Which is Better for Rural Areas?

In many rural communities, internet providers are limited, and the services available are slow and unreliable—DSL, dial-up, wireless mobile hotspots and satellite are often the only options. Fiber network infrastructure is being built all over the country, providing lighting-fast speeds and unmatched reliability to once-underserved communities. With the rise in remote work and education, the residents who call these areas home need fast, reliable internet to connect to new learning opportunities, keep in touch with family and friends and give up the long commute to work.

At Lumos, we strive to make fiber internet accessible to all communities, big and small. 100% Fiber Optic Internet2 delivers faster speeds, more reliability and more bandwidth so you can connect all your devices all at once. Whether you’re streaming your favorite show, working from home or gaming with friends, you’re never interrupted by lagging, buffering or glitching. 

Ready to experience the next generation of internet? Explore our plans or call us today to discover the power of unlimited connectivity.