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How does the internet 'work'?



9:03 pm on Feb 7, 2008 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member


I have a question: I'm about to move into a new appartment and there is no phone connection, yet (however it is downtown in a city of 100,000 people (in Germany) and my brother told me I wouldn't have to worry about being able to get an internet connection there (however, he was sick and barely had a voice so he didnt go into detail on the phone when he said that)).

I'm wondering this because of my particular situation, but also in general: How does the internet work? Are there cables under the ground that were originally/are still used for telephones (telephone cables?:-)) and maybe other cables(?) that were there before the internet became so popular...which are now used to transmit data over the internet?

And are there such cables basically everywhere? I assume usually everybody who lives in a town or city can get a telephone (or an internet) connection without anybody having to tear up the ground, etc..

So how does this work? Are there cables to virtually every house?



9:47 pm on Feb 7, 2008 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Administrator lifeinasia is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 5+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

The main ways people connect from their home to the "Internet" are via phone lines (dial-up through modems over existing phone lines), xDSL over phone lines, or through cable TV cables. There are some other ways- fiber optic cable, WiFi, or satellite, for example. (The cables that form the backbones of the Internet are more complicated than that.)

In your case, I think you mean there is no phone service currently turned on. (Basically, you need to call up the phone company and have them flip a switch on their end to give you a connection to the main phone line trunk.) I would be EXTREMELY surprised if an apartment building did not actually have phone lines connected to it.

[edited by: LifeinAsia at 9:48 pm (utc) on Feb. 7, 2008]


9:10 pm on Feb 8, 2008 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member jtara is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

Well, I think you are not really talking about "an Internet connection", but "a high-speed Internet connection".

I thought we all knew how the Internet works by now - it's a series of tubes! :)

Actually, that's a pretty accurate description - a series of tubes, of all sizes, shapes, and types. Every possible transmission media - from copper wires to optical fibre cables, to radio and satellite transmission, to (at least experimentally) carrier pigeons.

The Internet isn't limited to any one transmission media, nor is (what you are really interested in in this case) end-user connectivity, often referred-to as "the last mile".

You certainly will be able to get dial-up service over your (not yet installed) phone line. Of course, dial-up service is slow.

Other possibilities are:

DSL, which is delivered over a copper pair - sometimes your existing phone line, sometimes an additional copper pair. (In most places, the phone company has already placed multiple copper pairs in each dwelling - they just have to be hooked-up at the central office.)

ISDN, an older technology also delivered over copper pairs, but still important in some parts of the world.

Cable - delivered over your cable TV connection.

Wireless - in some places, Internet service can be delivered to residences wirelessly. There are several variations on this, from point-to-point services where you have to install an antenna pointed at a specific tower, to city-wide Wi-Fi installations, to "borrowing" your neighbors Internet connection through their open Wi-Fi node.

Satellite - the ultimate fallback option. As you're not in the Australian outback, you're unlikely to need this.

You probably just need to ask your neighbors what is available. :)

What services are available and who you buy them from will depend a lot of local telecommunications regulations. In the U.S., for example, the telephone companies must make their copper pairs available to third-parties wanting to offer DSL service. In other places, your only choice might be a government-monopoly phone company.


9:44 pm on Feb 8, 2008 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

You can also connect to the internet through your toilet now: [google.com...]


1:58 am on Feb 9, 2008 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Administrator phranque is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

I thought we all knew how the Internet works by now - it's a series of tubes! :)

this is the original, u.s. senate commerce committee chairmain ted stevens on net nuetrality [youtube.com].
this is a series of tubes remixed [youtube.com].


5:42 pm on Feb 25, 2008 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

You sould be able to get ADSL esaly enough now

I found [mysme.de...]

You might be able to find a wirless ap within range that you could pigyback of of that till you get it sorted out.


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