An internet service provider or ISP is an organisation that offers services that make it possible for subscribers to access and use the internet. ISPs provide a varied array of internet services which usually include internet access, colocation, web hosting, domain name registration, and internet transit.
The term ISP is most commonly associated with an organisation that provides businesses and individuals with access to the internet usually in exchange for a monthly subscription fee. Typically, the ISP would provide clients with a software package, an access phone number, a password, and a username to enable them access the internet.
A broadband modemhardware is usually purchased outright with the first subscription, while the subscriber continues to pay a monthly fee to retain broadband access. In other cases, payment for the hardware is added to the subscriber’s ISP account billing, enabling him or her to spread out the payment. Other than providing broadband access for individuals, internet service providers provide services for large corporations where they directly connect the organisation’s networks to the internet.
Sometimes called an internet access provider or IAP, an internet service provider may be owned by a private entity or a community, it may also be non-profit or commercial. An ISP may be regional, such as BARNet for the San Francisco Bay area or NEARNet for New England. There are also OSPs or online service providers such as Compuserve and America Online. Larger service providers have their traffic interconnected with one another through switching centres such as MCI WorldCom’s MAE.
Originally, the internet was restricted to academia and U.S. government research laboratories. It was not until the commercialisation of the internet that signs of the first ISPs began to surface. The U.S. Corporation for National Research Initiatives got its experimentto link MCI Mailto the internet approved in 1988. MCI Mail was a commercial email service, and was the first instance of connecting a commercial provider outside the research community to the internet. Soon, other email providers were granted access to the internet, and thus began the internet’s first influx of traffic.
In the eighties, the U.S. National Science Foundation had developed NSFNET, which was its digital backbone service, and it was made open for commercial use in 1993. In the same year, the University of Illinois made their novel browser called Mosaic, available to the public. Not too long after, Microsoft Corporation built the Internet Explorer web browser. Many believe the commercial version of ARPNER, Telenet, was the first internet service provider. While Telenet was launched in 1974, the first service provider for the internet as we now use it started operating in 1989 and was called “The World”.
There were about 10,000 internet service providers worldwide by the late nineties. The first ISPs started with dialup modems, which eventually became slow. In little time, internet service expanded to new levels that required more advanced technology such as fibre optic cables, T1 lines, satellite dishes, cable modems, and more.
Access provides provide consumers with access to the network through connecting them to their servers. These ISPs employ a wide range of technologies to enable users connect to the internet. The technologies that have been used include fibre optic cables, Wi-Fi (wireless Ethernet), CATV (community access television) cables, computer modems with acoustic couplers, and more.
ISPs often use options such as dialup, cable modems, and other technologies adequate for small-scale internet use for small businesses and individuals. Entities with more demanding internet requirements such as other ISPs or large businesses are serviced with options such as ISDN Primary Rate Interface, Frame Relay, gigabit Ethernet, and others of such scale.
Mailbox providers offer clients email servers services and host electronic mail domains. While some mailbox providers are also in the business of providing access, others are not. Examples of mailbox providers include AOL Mail and Gmail.
Hosting ISPs provide online storage, web hosting, email, physical sever operation, cloud services, and virtual servers.
Transit ISPs connect access ISPs and hosting ISPs - a service that requires great amounts of bandwidth. They are larger networks that are able to provide ISPs with access to portions of the internet smaller ISPs would be unable to reach on their own.
Virtual ISPs connect their users to the internet through another ISP’s services, which had been previously purchased.
Free ISPs allow users connect to the internet for free and make their money from advertisements shown to connected users.
Wireless ISPs provide users with internet connection via a public wireless network, with technologies such as the widely used Wi-Fi connectivity found in homes, schools, restaurants, businesses, and other such entities.
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