Everywhere you go or almost everything you use, the internet plays a major role. In fact, nowadays, a small kid can just search the internet for an answer to that question he or she asked and you never intended to answer (or you lied). Growing up, I didn’t know about the internet, but when I familiarized with it, I had to get a notebook and fill it with website addresses (mostly music websites) that I could punch on the keyboard at a nearby cybercafé. It cost me money just to view articles about my favourite musicians or listen to their songs. Just like many others, I never questioned why, and I think it is probably because I was too young to know.
Does Free Internet Exist?
I am of the opinion that the internet should really be free. I believe the profits that ISPs could make from free internet users would be much more than what they are making with paid internet. I recently saw a publication about the possibility of the internet being free in a couple of years to come and I could not have been any happier. However, it still poses questions on those supposed to pay for equipment maintenance.
Such an advent would signal an end to desperate ways of getting cheaper internet. The world would indeed be one global village.
A Little History
Let me take you to a history class and attempt to explain how this ‘paying for the internet stuff came about’. From its beginning in the 1969, the internet has rapidly grown from an interconnection of four host computers to a network of tens of millions of computers. Back then, the computer was not a gadget that you can conceal with the palm of your hand as it is nowadays. The computers were expensive then but nowadays, you can get a smartphone for an unbelievably cheap price.
The Internet Society, a body that oversees the formation of policies and protocols that we use to access the internet, advocates for free internet up to now. Why? Because it is possible.
How it Works
The internet is a hierarchy of networks. Even that device that you are using to read this article is part of that network. However, you have not connected to this website directly because it is not in your device. To access the computer that is hosting this website, you have connect to a network, in which that computer is part. This is done through an ISP, in this case, you have Safaricom, the leading ISP in Kenya; Wananchi group, the parent company behind Zuku ; Airtel; Orange Kenya; and many others.
The ISPs mentioned above cannot connect you to every computer around the world –they too need to connect to larger ISPs. This network establishes a connection to a bigger network, which connects to another until all the computers are connected. The internet is literally a loop of connections over a network (that is where its name comes from- an interconnection of networks).
Does Your Local Internet Service Provider Pay To Connect To The Larger Network?
Yes. Originally, a connection to another group of networks was free. However, the need to regulate usage of resources surfaced and to curb the increasing demand. There was no better way than charging for this usage. This is a basic rule of marketing. The demand was grown by availing free internet and with the market created, somebody had to reap the profits by charging. Projects such as Net Zero were no more.
Another reason that comes up is the need to cover the cost of equipment used, maintenance as well as any future developments. The increase in ISPs has made it even more costly. Even the unlimited internet packages given by ISPs such as Airtel Kenya or the hugely popular unlimited monthly subscriptions by orange do not deserve to be termed as unlimited. On the other hand, Safaricom Kenya is still charging expensively for a small amount of data.
The local ISP therefore pays, but the amount that is translated to consumers is inflated and entirely determined by the ISP –as evident in the disparity at which they offer data services. They dictate their own prices and the consumers get it the hard way.
There are plans to begin the layout of a new strategy whereby the consumers do not pay for internet. Instead, websites that directly use the bandwidth will cover for the equipment costs. This is fair, given that in sites like YouTube, you not only pay for the video you watch but also for the unwanted adverts and anything else that YouTube will choose to display.
The new model will see YouTube and other sites such as Hulu TV paying for bandwidth while we enjoy it free of charge. However, these sites might soon begin charging for additional services or even avail some videos to subscribers only. Sites that do not need a lot of bandwidth will not incur any charges hence they will be entirely free.
The introduction of free internet is not just an advantage to those who are currently connected, but it will spell equality to everybody. Currently, with the phone prices dropping, the only difference between two people using the same phone is meeting the data costs imposed by the ISP.