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What is an Internet Service Provider?

By R. Kayne
Updated May 16, 2024
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An Internet service provider (ISP) provides Internet connectivity at home or in the workplace. This normally involves a monthly fee, which in some cases is prepaid for up to a year or more to earn discounts. Internet service providers charge different fees depending on the type of Internet service offered and the tier purchased.

For example, an Internet service provider that sells dial-up service offers modest data transfer speeds of up to 56 kilobits per second. Normally, this service includes one or more email accounts and limited or unlimited use of the Internet. Limited use is calculated hourly, but the most common type of account provides “unlimited” hours, though this is assumed to be intermittent use. A dial-up account can cost as little as 6 US dollars (USD) per month.

For more speed and an “always on” connection, look for an Internet service provider that offers digital subscriber line (DSL) accounts. DSL uses the telephone line already installed in the house or business, but unlike dial-up, can share the line with telephone service. When using dial-up, the telephone line rings busy. When using DSL, the telephone can be used to make and receive calls, even while connected to the Internet.

Today, an Internet service provider can offer DSL at prices comparable to what dial-up cost throughout the 1990s. As of spring 2006, at least two major DSL Internet service providers offer new service at just 12.95 USD per month. This includes speeds up to 100 megabits per second. Faster speeds, or higher tiers, are also available at additional cost.

Another option is to get an Internet service provider that offers cable Internet connectivity. Cable service is roughly equal to DSL in terms of speed, but does not utilize telephone lines. Instead, Internet data is routed in on the same coaxial cable that brings in the television signal. There is plenty of bandwidth on the coaxial cable to carry various signals without interference, so this provides a clean solution. Cable Internet service is generally more expensive than DSL service, but some companies offer TV, Internet and telephone services in a package deal that can save some consumers money.

Every Internet service provider should have a Terms of Service (TOS) contract and a Privacy Policy. Both contracts should be read carefully before signing up with an ISP. Some Internet service providers require a term contract, while others are month-to-month.

Some ISPs restrict home page content, while others allow a commercial website. Some limit the number of email accounts available with each account, while others offer unlimited email accounts. Cancellation and refund policies will also be included in the TOS. The way personal information is handled should be detailed in the Privacy Policy.

With so many ISPs available, there is a package to meet every need and budget. DSL and cable service may not be available in all areas, but a search engine can get you started in the right direction to find the perfect Internet service provider for your needs.

EasyTechJunkie is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

Discussion Comments

By anon332896 — On May 01, 2013

I use AT&T U-Verse, phone, cell phone,home phone internet max plus, U-verse 200 TV, I have a pace 2-wire gateway and it does my home phone it is a 3801 HGV. My internet is slow. Can you recommend a better wireless gateway?

By anon114837 — On Sep 30, 2010

what are the uses of it?

By anon21608 — On Nov 18, 2008

There are hundreds of thousands of dial-up ISPs globally, and nearly as many DSL providers. Cable TV providers normally offer cable Internet Service too. For ISPs serving your area use a search engine and enter "[your town here] +ISP" minus the quotes and brackets.

By anon20588 — On Nov 03, 2008

what are the examples of internet service provider?

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