So what actually is the internet?

You have most likely heard of the internet, you may even in a brief moment have wondered what it actually is, but you most likely don’t really know what it actually is or how it works. The internet is a great many things, a lot more things than you may even be able to imagine, it is also very few things that run a lot of aspects of our daily lives. What the internet is these days though, is pretty much everything in our lives, stretching from your social media, to your TV and even to your phone calls.

The reason for this is for the sake of simplicity, all of these things can run over the internet, so a lot of providers just use the internet, instead of having a separate broadcasting system for tv, one for radio and a special system for telephone calls. If you run all of them over the internet, you only have to expand and maintain one set of physical devices, not one for every separate service.

This does however not really affect you in any way, in your day to day,. The equipment you get from your provider handles all of the necessary steps of converting you phone calls, TV and radio into a signal your TV or phone can use. Some times though, it can mean that the equipment given to you by your provider, may not be powerful enough to handle all the different services you have a subscription for. It will usually manifest as a service dropout when you are using more services than their equipment can handle at one time.

Spider Web
The web is a great big place for all of us to connect

Once you start to understand how it is all connected, it starts to make sense how a device can be overloaded and how some providers deliberately under power their devices to save money. With our increased use of media today, the demands on the devices is increasing exponentially and therefore the price also increases by a lot.

The devices we get from providers are called routers or modems and sometimes even a mix of both, but common for all of them is that they are the heart of your home network. Home network is fancy tech speak for all the internet capable devices in your home and all the connections you have to the internet, your own wireless and internet connections in the walls.

You probably have a router like this one at home

Your home network is kind of like a mini internet, it functions on and uses the exact same principles as the internet, but on a much smaller scale. You can think of the internet as the streets and highways of a city or country and your hallways and rooms inside your house as your smaller home/local network. In fact all devices on the internet and your home network has an address, much like street addresses and room numbers, so you can find your way to the right destination, for example social media or TV.

This is also why a lot of myths like presidents shutting down the internet or hackers being able to destroy the internet or cause blackouts are completely ridiculous. Just like shutting down access to all roads in a country is a completely ridiculous and impossible notion, as you can usually always just find a way around it or even use a dirt road that isn’t on the map. The dirt road in this analogy would be things like networks people built themselves, either with equipment separate from the internet or what some people call the “dark web”. The dark web is essentially just a VPN, like we talked about in Wifi Safety, there isn’t really much more to it.

The requirements for the internet or the incredibly huge home network we all share, is just routers and a bunch of them. Given that they are scaled up versions and usually have much more powerful components than what you have at home. It essentially means that you could build your own network with your neighbours if you want to and the devices needed for smaller networks shared between neighbours are usually very affordable.

If this sounds appealing to you and/or a few friends and neighbours, it can be an incredibly fun hobby project to play around with and will give you a much more detailed view into how the internet works. Some good, easy to use and low cost devices to start you out on this journey is Ubiquity Networks, Raspberry Pi‘s. and Synology. A bit further down the road, I will most likely also make a write up of creating and administrating your own small to large networks.

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