After suffering for far too long, I finally arranged for a service call for my internet connection. I'm happy to report that I have a new modem, a new connection, and blazing fast speed that I haven't had since I don't know when.
And in other news - The Man may have fixed my laptop! There were all sorts of problems with it, but the primary one was that the screen was, in fact, dead. Being the resourceful guy that he is, he has ordered a new backlight for me and will install it when it arrives. Not that it's easy - Dell doesn't want you to know that you can fix a burnt-out backlight. They want to sell you a whole new screen. But if this works the way we think it will, we will have repaired the screen with a $25 part.