In this post, we’ll take a high level look at how a single Internet connection is shared amongst multiple devices in your house.


If you have a cable or DSL connection, then the Internet is brought to your house via the physical cables belonging to the local cable provider or phone company, respectively.  The relation between the physical lines and various providers can get complicated pretty quickly, but one way or another, you end up with some kind of jack on your wall that serves as your door to the Internet.

The cable or DSL modem connects to that phone or cable jack, and also to your router.  The modem is your interface to the phone or cable company’s infrastructure.  It passes traffic back and forth between your ISP and your router, making sure that your data doesn’t bump into TV channels or telephone calls when it’s sent down the line.  In some cases, the modem and the router are contained within a single device.

The router is the central piece of a home network.  Everything connects to the router.  The router’s job is to route all of the traffic between anything connected to it.  If you are sharing a file between two of your computers, the router passes the file between them.  If two of your computers are browsing the web, the router sends their requests out to the Internet (through the modem), and keeps track of who asked for what.  That way, when it receives a web page, it can pass it back to the computer that originally asked for it.

Connections to the router may be made with network cable or wirelessly, if your router is so equipped.  In the picture above, I have the desktop connected with cable and the laptop connected wirelessly, but desktops can have wireless cards and laptops can connect via cable.  You might also have any number of other internet capable devices  connected to the router, e.g., PlayStation, smart phone, security camera, etc.

Further Reading

Click on any of the links I have embedded in the post, or do a search using your favorite search engine.

Questions or comments?  Post ’em below.