eli5 What is Internet and why do we have to pay for it?


eli5 What is Internet and why do we have to pay for it?

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The internet is a connection between a large group of computers, sometimes called The Cloud when you access one or more of those computers directly.

You do not pay for the internet, you pay an internet service provider (ISP) to provide access to the linked computer “web.”

It is possible to create your own internet service and even sell it to others, but that involves an investment of money.


It’s a network of connected computing devices that utilize a common language and protocols so devices can “talk” to each other. There’s end users (like your phone or laptop) and lots of intermediaries (like routers and switches) that help direct traffic between the devices. The common protocols tell the intermediaries how to direct traffic and the common language tells each device how to use and display the information received (and sent). The traffic travels on various wires, cables, satellites, etc. – essentially anything capable of carrying and transmitting an electronic signal, and these wires, cables, etc. (and all the various intermediaries) cost money to make, install, maintain, replace, program, etc. For the most part, the people and companies that make, install, maintain, replace, program, etc. do so because they can make money by doing so. That money has to come from somewhere, and in large swaths of the world, that money comes from those who want to use the internet (like you and I). That’s why we pay for it.

The basic idea of the internet is that there are a lot of computers all over the world, and that we can connect those computers together through a series of wires and satellites and radios, so that someone in London can use their phone to connect to one computer that connects to a different computer that connects to a different computer that connects to a computer in San Francisco that has the information they need. That there’s a series of rules that these computers that are hooked together use so that people can use special computer programs to get that information and communicate with computers that are very close or very far away.

There are companies that are internet service providers, that allow you to contact their computer, and then their computers will reach out through that network, the internet, to get the information you want. They charge money because they have to pay for upkeep and repair of their computers, they need to get new equipment on a regular basis to expand so they can handle more people, and that it costs money to be keeping their computers operating.

So unless you pay for an internet service provider, your phone or tablet or computer can’t make the connection to the internet, because yours isn’t connected to the special other computers that are interconnected that way.