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Where Does Internet Come From? Why Can’t You Make Your Own?

The internet is in your pocket, right? But also the air? And your phone line? The internet comes from somewhere, but where? And why can’t we make our own?

The internet seems so easy to get; just plug your computer into your router and off you go. But how do you create your own internet, or even take the place of your ISP and own your own internet connection?

Let’s explore where the internet comes from, and how to make your own internet.

Where Does Internet Come From?

You may see red every time you imagine your ISP sitting back in its chair, watching your monthly payments roll in as it apparently does nothing. However, there is a lot of work that goes into delivering the internet to you.

Connecting to Your Internet Service Provider (ISP)

First of all, there’s the infrastructure. Your internet connection doesn’t go straight out into the internet; it has to arrive at your ISP first. After all, ISP means “Internet Service Provider;” you’re not getting internet until you connect to them!

To do this, you need to be connected to your ISP in some way. A wired connection is the most common method. This is where a cable transfers data from your router all the way to your ISP.

If you have fiber, it’s likely that you have a copper cable that runs from your home to a roadside cabinet or pole on the curb. Once it reaches this point, it uses fiber the rest of the way to your ISP.

However, some lucky people can get a connection directly to their home. This means they have fiber from their house all the way to the ISP, which is a lot faster than a fiber/copper mix.

These technologies are called “Fiber to the Curb” (FttC) and “Fiber to the Premises” (FttP) respectively. If you use the latter to run a connection all the way to your house, it’s usually called “Fiber to the Home” (FttH) instead.

You can read more about these methods in our article about the difference between FttC and FttP.

Getting an IP Address

Now that you have a connection between you and your ISP, you need an IP address. Your ISP assigns this, which gives the servers you connect to a way to contact you back.

When you get an IP address, your ISP won’t pull four random numbers out of a bag and give you the result as an address. Your ISP has to register with your country’s IP address organization and get a block of addresses that it can distribute to its customers.

Each geographical region has its own IP organization. For North America, your ISP needs to talk to ARIN to get its addresses. Europe has RIPE NNC, and Asia has APNIC

Sending You Where You Want to Go

Now that you have a connection to your ISP and an address, it’s time to go out into the world. Your ISP will help identify where your connection wants to go and sends it off to its destination.

To do this, your ISP provides you with a Domain Name System (DNS) server. This translates the URL of a website into an IP address, which the servers can then use to direct your request to where it needs to go.

We covered more about this technology on what a DNS server is, and why they become unavailable.

As you can see, there’s a lot your ISP does to help get you online. However, if you really wanted to, can you make your own internet?

How to Make Your Own Internet

Let’s say you wake up one day, and decide that you’ve had enough; you want to make your own internet connection. You don’t want to pay your ISP anymore, and you want to do all the technical stuff yourself.

To do this, you’ll need a server that can take your connection and direct it to the internet. You could buy all the hardware yourself, or hire someone else’s server instead.

Then, you need to apply to your country’s ISP organization to get an IP address. Unfortunately, you can’t just ask for the one; you’ll need to buy a bunch of them.

Once that’s done, you need to connect your server to your home, so you can get on the internet. You can do this by laying down your own fiber cables (very costly!) or hiring another company’s infrastructure.

At this point, it’s likely you’ve already spent into five figures, perhaps with some costly rental fees too. You’ll likely go heavily into debt unless you start offering your service to other people, too.

After all, you have that big batch of IP addresses; you can get customers on-board to pay you monthly to use your service. That will hopefully offset the costs and help you earn back your sunk costs.

There’s just one problem; you’ve become the very thing you swore to destroy! You’re now officially an ISP, taking on customers to help cover your costs.

You’ve finally managed to get rid of those annoying internet bills, but now you’re managing an entire business instead. Probably best to pay an ISP to do all that hard work for you!

Orcas Island, an Example of a Community ISP

While it’s not a grand idea to make your own ISP just for yourself, there are examples of people banding together to make an ISP for their local community. This is the closest example of someone setting up an internet connection for their own use.

Ars Technica covered the story of fifty people on Orcas Island. They had internet via an ISP, but because they were on a rural island, the connection would be spotty.

The residents of Orcas Island took matters into their own hands. They noticed that a microwave broadband tower sat on a shore 10 miles away, owned by StarTouch Broadband Services. All the residents had to do was attach themselves to that network.

They spent $11,000 to get permission to use the microwave tower, then constructed their own using a water tower as the base.

The signals would then be sent to trees near people’s houses, which was wired into their home. Orcas Island residents eventually had a stable 30Mbps download—not bad for a remote island!

So in a way, you can make your own internet; however, you’ll need a big community push to fund and set it up, instead of trying to find ways to shave money off of your monthly bills.

How to Create an Internet

While the above information is relevant for people who want to create their own internet connection, it doesn’t answer the question some people have on how to generate your own internet.

If you are wondering how to do this, it’s likely that you want to achieve one of two goals; either you want to make a website that other people can visit, or you want to make a “small internet” for your home.

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