Considering the ubiquity of the internet it’s kind of funny that so few people know much about its source. So long as people can access the internet they are unconcerned about from where it’s coming. But recognizing the history of leased line installation a meaningful link between the worlds most powerful tool and the person using it.
Originally, to access the internet you needed an account at a university or a government agency. The internet began accepting commercial traffic in the early 1990s, but it was limited and on nowhere near the scale of today. There were a small handful of companies, considered access points, that provided public access, but soon, as traffic increased, they became clogged. Major telecommunication companies began providing access privately. Smaller companies benefited from accessing the small business fiber optic, but soon they were charged for this access. This was around the mid 90s, right before the internet boom.
In 1995, MTI and AT & T began charging consumers a monthly rate of about $20 wholesale solutions. Businesses were charged considerably more as their connection was faster and more reliable. It’s easy to imagine that everyday consumers had more patience for it than they do today considering how much less reliant they were on the internet during its infancy. This was before things like E-mail, Ebay, Itunes, and YouTube were household words, and internet tools people leaned on.
When the internet suddenly took off, ISPs were challenged to dramatically improve their infrastructure, router technology, and increase their access points. The bigger communication companies began developing subsidiaries that focused on making the internet more widely accessible. Even as technology improved, the web had to deal with more and more congestion. Access was greatly improved, but internet usage rose exponentially. The upshot is ISP’s monthly charges typically diminished, but this also varied from country to country. Markets with fewer ISP’s had a greater monopoly, and so were able to charge more than in regions where competition prevented companies from raising prices too high.
Lately there has been controversy between large ISP’s and regulating agencies concerned about a lack of competition. In Canada, a new report released by Harvard indicates that the country is lacking in broadband speed, price, and market penetration. In response, big ISP’s have suggested that this is a flawed statistic, and really what are needed are more citizens with computers, more Canadian content, and more Canadian research. In short, the two sides are trying to absolve themselves of blame by deflecting the responsibility to some other party. This is specifically a worthwhile case study because it’s indicative of what’s happening in most markets around the world. For ISP’s to maintain price control they need to convince the general public and media sources that the problem isn’t with broadband pricing. Likewise, regulators are generally going after dominant players in order to check their control of the market and stop what they perceive as exploiting their position.
Today, it’s difficult to imagine people living without some kind of internet access. We should be grateful for ISP’s whose vision has paved the way for the internet explosion that has enriched our lives in so many ways. Hopefully new companies will continue springing up and internet access will stay in the financial reach of people everywhere.