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.