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What is an internet service provider (ISP)?

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An internet service provider (ISP) is a company that provides access to the internet. ISPs can provide this access through multiple means, including dial-up, DSL, cable, wireless and fiber-optic connections.

A variety of companies serve as ISPs, including cable providers, mobile carriers, and telephone companies. In some cases, a single company may offer multiple types of service (e.g., cable and wireless), while in other cases, a company may focus on just one type of service (e.g., fiber-optic). Without an ISP, individuals and businesses could not reach the internet and the opportunities it provides.

Typical services offered by ISPs

Internet access is the primary service offered by ISPs, but there are a variety of other services they may provide. These can include:

  • Equipment rental: Many ISPs will rent equipment like modems and routers to their customers. This can be a convenient option for those who do not want to purchase their own equipment or do not need the latest and greatest technology.
  • Tech support: Many ISPs offer tech support to their customers. This can be a valuable service for those unfamiliar with setting up or troubleshooting internet connections.
  • Email access: Some ISPs offer email services to their customers. This can be a convenient way to have an email address linked to your ISP account.
  • Tiered connection plans: ISPs typically offer different tiers of service, with different speeds and data allowances. This is a good option for those who want to pay for a higher-speed connection or who need more data than what is included in the basic package.

As a leading provider of internet service, Verizon offers a variety of services to consumers, including:

  • Fios InternetFios Internet is a 100% fiber-optic network that delivers some of the fastest internet speeds to millions of homes in the mid-Atlantic and New England.
  • 5G Home Internet5G Home Internet is a wireless home internet service utilizing 5G Ultra Wideband technology that provides the network performance and speed you want to stream, game or work flexibly.
  • LTE Home InternetVerizon LTE Home is a wireless internet service that offers download speeds of 25-50 Mbps, with typical upload speeds of 4 Mbps.

It's important to note that there is a difference between Mbps and Kbps. Mbps stands for megabits per second, while Kbps stands for kilobits per second — one megabit is the equivalent of 1,000 kilobits.

Evolution of internet service providers

Internet service providers have come a long way since their early days of offering dial-up internet service. In the past, dial-up was the only option for those who wanted to access the internet. This meant that users had to connect their computer to a phone line and use a modem to connect to the internet. The speeds were slow (usually around 56 kbps), and the connection was often unreliable.

As technology progressed, ISPs began offering higher-speed connections using DSL or cable. These connections were much faster than dial-up (usually around 1 Mbps), but they were still slower than what is available today.

Now, ISPs are offering high-speed fiber-optic connections and unlimited data plans. As technology progresses, we are beginning to see new services like high-speed 5G home internet becoming much more widely available.

Why do I need an ISP?

An ISP is required in order to connect to the internet via a modem in your home or business. Without an ISP, you would not be able to access the wealth of information available online. An ISP can provide you with a fast and reliable connection.

That said, there’s some leeway for those who are interested in using a mobile data plan and hotspot to connect to the internet, instead of paying for a plan from an ISP that doesn’t offer mobile connectivity. With a mobile data plan, you pay for a certain number of gigabytes per month, and you’re able to share data and get internet on multiple devices via hotspot.

A mobile data plan can give you fast, reliable internet —although a data cap may be an issue with some plans. If you're considering a prepaid mobile plan but are worried that you might need more data than it offers, many ISPs offer unlimited data plan options.

Other benefits of using an ISP include:

  • ISPs offer a variety of plans, so you can choose the one that is best for your needs.
  • ISPs offer discounts or promotions from time to time, so you may be able to get a lower price on your service.
  • ISPs often include additional services like email or web hosting.
  • ISPs are regulated by the government, so you can be sure they will provide a certain level of service.

If you want a fast and reliable internet connection, you need an ISP. ISPs offer a variety of services that can meet your needs, whether you are a business or a consumer. In addition, ISPs are constantly evolving to offer even higher speeds and unlimited data plans.

How to choose an ISP

There are various considerations when choosing an ISP. Some important factors are:

  • Location: Depending on your location, you may only have a few choices for ISPs. This is because each ISP has coverage areas that they serve. If an ISP does not serve your area, you may have to use a different type of connection, like a mobile data plan.
  • Speed: How fast do you need your connection to be? If you are just browsing the web or checking email, you may not need a particularly fast connection. However, if you are streaming video or gaming online, you will need a much faster connection. An even faster connection is required for those who work from home and need to upload large files.
  • Data cap: Some ISPs have data caps, which means you could be charged overage fees if you use too much data in a month. If you are a heavy internet user, you will want to choose an ISP with an unlimited data plan.
  • Budget: The cost of an ISP plan will vary depending on the speed and data allowance you need. You can get a cheaper plan if you only need a basic internet connection for email and web browsing. However, you will need to pay more if you need a faster connection for using multiple apps or streaming.

Included with these considerations is fixed wireless access. This type of internet wirelessly connects your home to a nearby cell tower. This has the potential to offer high speeds, but it may not be available in all areas. Nevertheless, it's worth checking out as an option, even if you live in a rural area that otherwise lacks high-speed access.

Choosing the right ISP is a matter of finding the right balance of speed, data, and price that meets your needs. First, consider what you need from your internet connection and compare the available plans in your area. Then, with a bit of research, you can find the best ISP for you.