ISP (Internet Service Provider)

DEFINITION of 'ISP (Internet Service Provider)'

A company that provides consumers and businesses access to the Internet. Depending on the services offered by the Internet Service Provider, it could be considered an information service provider, storage service provider, Internet Network Service Provider (INSP), or a combination of the three.

BREAKING DOWN 'ISP (Internet Service Provider)'

The three categories of ISP service together link content and information with the end-user. Information, including content such as news articles or online banking, is hosted on networks around the world, and ultimately linked to the end-user by Internet Network Service Providers. In this sense, an Internet Service Provider can link end-users to other end-users. ISPs can also link to other ISPs.

Consumers are most familiar with their carrier, whether it is an Incumbent Local Exchange Carrier (ILEC), Other Local Operator (OLO), or Access Internet Service Provider (AISP). Long-distance carriers also serve as carriers since they tend to have made the substantial investments in infrastructure required for connectivity. Carriers serve as the last step between the Internet at large and themselves.

When the Internet first became available to the general public, most people had dial-up access. Before the advent of modern Internet Service Providers, access to the Internet was limited to those who had an account at a participating university or government agency. During the mid-1990s, the number of Internet Service Providers increased to several thousand. As the options for connectivity increased, and as speeds moved away from slower dial-up connections, the Internet economy was born. Faster Internet connections have played a significant role in the popularity of several businesses, including Google and Facebook.

Many countries are making the shift from dial-up to broadband, which presents a significant opportunity for investment. Consumers and businesses are getting used to the idea that they should be able to connect to the Internet from anywhere, whether at home, at work, or while sitting in a local coffee shop. In order to deliver connectivity at high speed, companies have to invest in expensive infrastructure, such as fiber optic cables.