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What Is an Internet Service Provider (ISP)?

What are Internet Service Providers

You may be wondering, what is ISP? Well, Internet Service Providers (ISP's), which first began to emerge in the late 1980s and early 1990s, are the businesses and organizations that provide users with Internet access and related internet services. These providers connect customers to customers of other service providers by way of networks. Often, Internet Service Providers (also called Internet Access Providers) are companies that provide telecommunications services including data communications access and telephone connection, or even cable TV access. The majority of telephone companies now function as an Internet Access Provider or Internet Service Provider as well. ISP's may be commercial, non-profit, privately owned or community-owned.

What Are the Different Types of Internet Service Providers?

There are quite a few different types of Internet Service Providers available today, including access, mailbox, hosting, transit, virtual and free.

  • Access ISPs — Employ a variety of technologies to facilitate consumers' connection to their network. These technologies may include broadband or dialup. Always-on types of broadband connections comprise cable, fiber optic service (FiOS), DSL (Digital Subscriber Line) and satellite. A number of access providers also provide email and hosting services.
  • Mailbox ISPs — Offer email mailbox hosting services and email servers to send, receive and store email. Many mailbox ISPs are also access providers.
  • Hosting ISPs — Offer email, File Transfer Protocol (FTP), web-hosting services, virtual machines, clouds and physical servers.
  • Transit ISPs — Provide large amounts of bandwidth needed to connect hosting ISPs and access ISPs together.
  • Virtual ISPs (VISP) — Purchase services from other ISPs to allow customers Internet access.
  • Free ISPs (freenets) – Provide service free of charge and often display advertisements while users are connected.

What Are the Services Offered by Internet Service Providers?

Internet Service Providers deliver a variety of services to their customers, from cable internet access to fiber internet access and more. Some of these services include Internet access, domain name registration, domain name hosting or web hosting, dial-up access, leased line access and co-location. As most know, the Internet is a global system of interconnected computer networks used by billions of people across the world. This system of networks is linked by a vast assortment of electronic, optical networking and wireless technologies.

How Should I Select Between Internet Service Providers?

There are a number of factors to evaluate when considering Internet Service Providers. What providers are available in your region? What download and upload speeds best suit the needs of your household? What is the difference in pricing between internet packages? Location, bandwidth (such as upload and download speed, broadband availability, etc.) and pricing should be deliberated and carefully compared against other competitors' offerings. Consider this when asking "what is ISP?", and when choosing the ISP that's right for you and your Internet usage needs.

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