An access provider is a company or organization that provides Internet access to private customers and businesses. Often called an Internet Access Provider (IAP), an access provider connects their customers to the Internet through the use of technology such as dial-up modems, Digital Subscriber Links (DSL), wireless routers or dedicated high-speed modems. For a monthly fee, customers sometimes get a software package, as well as a username, password and a range of services, specific to each access provider. The monthly charge depends on the volume and speed of Internet connection that the customer requires, which is measured in bytes per second. Using an access provider, customers can browse the Internet, send and receive e-mail messages, access software tools, upload data to remote online storage and host a website, if necessary.
An access provider buys or rents bulk Internet links from an Internet Service Provider (ISP). Internet service providers are large access providers that sell connections on the Internet. The access provider then resells portions of the purchased connections to the general public. Internet service providers and access providers are connected to each other through Network Access Points (NAPS).
An access provider offers internet access at different bandwidths. Bandwidth refers to the data transfer rate, which is the amount of data that can be carried from one point to another in a set measure of time, usually measured in bytes per second. As an example, an access provider buys 1.544 megabytes (Mb) of bandwidth and then resells it in different portion sizes. Smaller bandwidths, 4.4 Kilobytes (Kb) to 28.8Kb, are for individuals and businesses that want to send and receive less data per second, typically using a dial-up modem, DSL or cable modem. Medium to large businesses, or customers who need to send and receive greater volumes of data per second, need larger bandwidths, 64Kb to 128Kb, and often use DSL, different types of Ethernet, a leased line or Single-pair High-speed Digital Subscriber Line (SHDSL) to ensure their Internet needs are met.
Some access providers do more than just connect customers to the Internet; they also provide their own range of online content. These types of access providers are referred to as Online Service Providers (OSP). They provide a range of services such as e-mail, news, search engines, entertainment (movies, music, videos), e-shopping, e-banking, e-health and e-financial services. Services offered are specific to each Online Service Provider.