Part 1.- Accessing the Internet
In this part, we’ll look at what the internet is and how you are able to gain access to the internet and how your device is distinguished from other million of internet users surfing the net the same time as you. So let’s get right to it.
WHAT IS THE INTERNET?
– Is the internet a cloud ☁ bubbling across the sky?
– Or a satellite(s) in outer space orbiting the earth?
– Is it a station or private company owned by somebody?
– Does Google own the internet perhaps. Since we tend to turn to google.com when we want to search the internet?
Though invented initially in 1983 as ARPANET by Robert E. Kahn and Vint Cerf, and further developed into world wide web in 1990 by Tim Berners-Lee, nobody and everybody owns the internet. This is because no company or individual can claim exclusive ownership of the internet.
Instead, we all have a share in making the internet possible as all our connected devices across the world is what makes up the internet.
This is because the internet is actually a global network of computers that communicate with each other using what we call Internet Protocol (IP) and also tries to identify the best paths to route those communications.
The internet is said to be a long wire buried underground. It’s a pathway used to facilitate computer end-to-end transfer of data and information.
It’s like a highway. Let’s take the Onitsha-Owerri highway for example. As the road goes, there are lots junctions of streets, major and minor roads and overhead bridges directly linked to it, which furthermore links up other paths (streets, roads, etc) and places to the express.
So also there’s are those directly and indirectly connected to the internet (wire). Just like the highway, those directly connected to the internet usually have faster access and speed than those further away. E.g NASA internet speed is said to be 91GBs per second.
INTERNET SERVICE PROVIDERS (ISPs)
We are indirectly connected to the internet through internet service providers (ISPs). ISPs are of various levels. They could be tier 1, 2 or 3. Tier 1 are directly connected, while tier 2 gets connected through tier 1, and tier 3 gets their access from tier 2.
ISPs in Nigeria includes telecommunications companies like Mtn, Glo, Etisalat, Smile, etc. While your connected device is called “client”…obviously because a client is a customer or user.
Remember that computer is more than just our daily PCs and smartphones, it could be analog, digital or hybrid such as your clock, digital watches, smart fridges, etc and range from micro to super computers.
ISPs have special supercomputers and softwares designed to connect to the internet as well as to connect their users (us) to their internet access.
Due to technological advancements, ISPs can convert their internet connection from wired to “wide-ranged” wireless connection called “signals” usually in form of long microwaves or beams transferred from one ISPs’ supercomputer to another (e.g mast, hotspots, drones and satellites) spaced apart at certain distances.
These signals can be utilized by internet enabled mobile phones or gateways such as modem, WiFi routers, etc to gain access to the internet from the comfort of your home or offices, and web browsers and applications like Opera mini, chrome, WhatsApp, even hotspot are able to interact with the internet and other users connected to it.
Signal strength usually depends on power of signal or distance of your device from the signal source, and also interferences or break in transmission.
WHY INTERNET SUBSCRIPTIONS?
Running an ISP company is very expensive. ISPs usually spend lots of money on building, running and expanding stations, installing, upgrading and maintaining their equipments, paying staffs, etc.
Also tier 2 and 3 have to pay their direct upline (tier 1 and 2 respectively). Thus they have to charge us their customers to cover the cost and also make profit. And that’s why prices and mode of charges varies with ISPs. You either have to pay for unlimited access at fixed but expensive rates or buy data (MB) depending on the ISP.
All devices directly or indirectly connected to the internet are assigned unique set of numbers separated with periods (dots) called internet protocol (IP) addresses used to identify them when surfing the internet.
After paying your ISP for internet access and you go online, your ISP assigns an IP address to your device. IP address is designed in such a way that no two devices can have exactly the same IP address at a time. It is like your postal or home address.
You use it to send and receive data and information over the internet and it helps in tracing your device during your online session to distinguish and keep track of whose device is asking for a particular data or information among the other millions of devices connected at the same time to the internet.
IP address contains some of your information such as your state, country, ISP, etc.That’s why some persons make use of VPNs to mask their IP address and present a dummy IP address in oder to access some country-restricted contents or commit cyber crimes. You can find out your IP addresses by googling “what is my ip address” or by visiting http://whatismyip.org/.
Lastly, let’s talk about gateways.
These are special devices that are used in homes or offices to connect two or more computers on a network to a single internet access point or source (usually linked to ISPs), which it then redistribute across the network of computers connected in that building for them all to have internet access via wired Ethernet cables or wireless hotspots.
Usually the gateway assumes the IP address assigned by the ISP, which it in turn assign to the connected computers but with a slight modification and thus computers connected to the internet via the network usually have almost thesame IP addresses. E.g. your office computer IP address may be 192.168.1.10 while that of your boss will be 192.168.1.11. Hubs, Switches and Routers are examples of gateways.
This is where we draw the curtain for this first part of how the internet works. In the next part, we’ll look on how data and information are stored on the internet (i.e. websites) and how you are able to retrieve them with your browsers, and thus if possible how much it costs to setup (store) your own website on the internet.