Eli5: Why exactly do we pay for wi-fi connection?


If wi-fi is basically radio waves then why do we pay a monthly bill for it? If I go out and buy 2 radios give one to a friend and we talk over it, we don’t have to pay for that monthly. Also I don’t pay for like my microwave or FM radio monthly. I know I’m missing something, just a curious thought while staring at my router.

In: Technology

You’re paying for the internet service that goes to the router.

You can’t just plug in a router and connect to the internet without first contracting an Internet Service Provider to provide you with internet.

You pay for the internet. You can distribute the internet via wired (ethernet) or wireless (wifi). Up to you but you don’t pay for the distribution. You pay for the internet.

Wi-Fi is just a replacement for a wired network connection. You are paying to your ISP for maintaining network infrastructure and making sure you have enough transfer rate to watch HD video and what not (they are paying to other higher level providers for that). Network isn’t free.

the way you worded it is like asking why you’re paying for having a flushing toilet. You’re not paying for the toilet nor would you be charged more for adding a 2nd bathroom to your house, you’re paying for the water coming in through the pipe to feed all your plumbing.

Same deal doesn’t matter how many devices or the way it’s getting the signal, you’re paying for the “pipe” serving your router Internet access.

> If wi-fi is basically radio waves then why do we pay a monthly bill for it?

You don’t. You can simply buy a Wifi router, take it out of the box and plug it in, and you’ll have Wifi.

You may be disappointed though. Wifi only connects computers in your house to each other. And most people want to connect to faraway computers on the Internet. For example, to use websites like Reddit, Facebook or Youtube, you connect to faraway computers owned by the operators of those websites.

You’re not paying a monthly fee for Wifi. Wifi is free [1]. Your monthly fee is for the ability to connect to faraway computers outside your house.

[1] Wifi is free as long as you own your Wifi router. Some ISP’s encourage people to rent a Wifi router. The electronics section of Target or Walmart sells Wifi routers for less than $100, a much better deal than the ISP’s monthly fee.