ISP - Internet Service Providers

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An Internet Service Provider (ISP) supplies Internet connectivity and/or related services to customers. ISPs normally operate as for-profit businesses but can also be community or volunteer organizations.

Services of an ISP

Most ISPs supply their customers one or more types of Internet access. Popular options for residential Internet access include

    Many consumers also depend on having access to the Internet while away from home. Besides mobile broadband data plans used with cell phones, many business also operate Wi-Fi hotspots for their patrons. For a time, the term WISP (wireless Internet service provider) was used to refer to these organizations, but with the mainstream use of wireless technologies WISPs are normally now just called "ISPs" like the rest.

    Some ISPs also supply business Internet access (such as business class DSL) to corporate customers.

    In addition to providing basic online connectivity, many ISPs also offer related Internet services like email, Web hosting and access to software tools.

    The World's Largest ISPs

    National broadband Internet providers in the United States are among the world's largest ISPs - chiefly Comcast, Time Warner Cable, and AT&T. In Europe, companies like Deutsche Telekom, Vodafone, Orange, Sky Broadband all have large subscriber bases in the countries they support.

    China Telecom, China Mobile and China Unicom and Sify (India) are among the many large providers in Asia.

    Choosing an Internet Service Provider

    Depending on physical location, many households have little or no choice of residential Internet providers. Concerns over the level of customer service, subscription fees, connection quality and speed have been regularly raised over the years by consumers not confident they are obtaining a fair deal.

    While an ISP may provide free Internet access (typically via a public wireless hotspot), these services are generally limited to occasional use. Homes and businesses must generally subscribe to an ISP service plan. Larger ISPs offer multiple tiers of service, with faster or slower connection speeds and sometimes combination packages including Internet, telephone and/or television in one package.

    Key items to consider when subscribing to an ISP include

    • Length of contract: While most providers offer monthly service plans, consider that planning ahead and subscribing for a longer period of time (6 months, 1 year, or more) often carries a discount on average monthly charges.
    • Referrals and new customer discounts: Many providers offer reduced prices to first-time customers (and not to existing customers). Although these deals can be enticing, the discounts given are only temporary
    • Delivering on advertised speeds: Computer network connections are notorious for performing at somewhat less than the maximum speeds they are rated for, and Internet connections are no exception. When choosing a provider and a tier of service, research the ISP and ensure they will deliver on whatever performance promises they are making.
    • Reliability: Often overlooked as a key factor in Internet service, ensure the ISP is offering service that isn't plagued by frequent outages and that their customer service is responsive when downtimes occur.