The Internet is everywhere and nowhere at the same time. Ask a friend to show you on the internet and, at best, he or she will probably show you the phone or your laptop. But the devices are not the Internet. If they contained the Internet, we would not need data connections.
How the Internet started
Like GPS, the Internet is a technology that was born in part with the goal of military superiority. Shortly after the launch of the Sputnik satellite in space by the Russians, US President Eisenhower created Advanced Research Projects. It was 1958.
In collaboration with academics and some private companies, ARPA created ARPANET, a network that could connect university computers across the country in the 1970 decade. It was a US Department of Defense project that established some protocols that are still in use today and allowed networks to connect around the world.
1973, ARPANET could communicate with the packet radio network (PRNET), which could connect computers with radio transmitters and receivers. 1977, the Satellite Network (SATNET) joined the other two. Subsequent additions included USENET (Internet forum precursor) and CSNET (for IT departments in academic institutions that could not connect to ARPANET).
The technicians have called the connection between multiple inter-networking networks or the internet, in short.
Of course, as you understand internet access was limited to a rather technical audience. This began to change when Tim Berners-Lee developed the World Wide Web in the early 1990.
Clarification: We have seen that the terms Internet and World Wide Web are used interchangeably to describe the same thing. Not applicable: the first is the interconnection of many different computer networks, while the latter is a way of navigating this giant network.
With the Web, colleges and businesses started to connect to the Internet. Access to the house followed later. Today we can be online through cars or through smartwatches.
The internet is not free to everyone, as internet infrastructures cost.
How ISPs work
The Internet today is distributed by internet service providers or Internet Service Providers (ISPs).
ISPs have the infrastructure they need to host the mechanisms needed to connect the local public to the wider internet. Buildings (without windows) used by ISPs are known as Point of Presence (POPs) and are linked to fiber optic lines.
Today's web consists mainly of the interconnection of huge corporate networks, with the entire traffic from our computers finally passing through the Network Access Point linking companies to each other.
Can You Make Your Own Internet?
The internet is not owned by ISPs. All webpages we know are on one's data servers. Internet service providers simply have the infrastructure used to link us to these servers: cables, lines, telephone lines, cell towers, and more.
There are two different questions: do we have the technical ability to create our own internet and on the other we have the permission to do it?
Let's look at them in turn.
Creating your own Internet
A connection between all the devices in our home is not difficult. This functionality exists on modern computers and is called a local area network (LAN). Allows you to send files, exchange messages, and play games with other devices connected to your local network.
It is also possible to create a similar network for larger space. This is called a wide area network (WAN). Private companies often use a combination of LAN and WAN to create one intranet which can only be accessed by their employees.
If you now have enough money, you could install your own fiber optic cables and start expanding your network to other buildings and communities. If there are now enough people to do the same, that is to spread and interconnect their networks, a new internet will be born.
But there are many reasons that this can not happen apart from the astronomical cost.
We do not need to invent a new way of accessing the internet. With enough money, we could create our own alternative. A billionaire or a group of billionaires could create an internet and distribute it for free. More realistically, the different communities or countries) could decide that they need access to fast internet infrastructures and tax their provision to secure the infrastructure.
Existing Internet Service Providers, however, are putting pressure on governments to create laws that will prevent new networks being created in areas already served. This allows today's providers to have monopolies with the same benefits of course. To say how much the game is, these restrictions do not apply to existing companies.
Example: A city that wants to build its own (inter) network can not compete with Verizon because it could be described as a startup, but AT&T can come and start spreading its own optical fibers if it chooses to.
What will happen in the future?
People are already starting to envision a web that will not depend on private companies and will be more resilient to national disasters. The solution appears to be called the mesh network and will be based on end-user devices rather than costly infrastructure. Each device will receive and transmit the data required to operate the entire network.
The Serval Project is an initiative born after Haiti's earthquake (2010) that left her off the Internet. FireChat allows you to send messages over a network and you can find it in Play Store and Apple App Store.
Η Hyperboria (formerly Project Meshnet) has greater ambitions and hopes it can replace the whole backbone of the Internet by using cjdns. If you want to see what it is you can download the necessary software on Android, Linux and MacOS.
If these technologies evolve, the internet of the future may be very different from what we are using today. The networks will be cheaper and less centralized. We would be more involved in the infrastructure we all use to connect electronically and we could see more people creating their own internet.