Internet service provider

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Internet connectivity options from end-user to tier 3/2 ISPs Internet Connectivity Access layer.svg
Internet connectivity options from end-user to tier 3/2 ISPs

An Internet service provider (ISP) is an organization that provides many different services for accessing, using, or participating in the Internet. Internet service providers can be organized in various forms, such as commercial, community-owned, non-profit, or otherwise privately owned.


Internet services typically provided by ISPs can include Internet access, Internet transit, domain name registration, web hosting, Usenet service, and colocation.

An ISP typically serves as the access point or the gateway that provides a user, access to everything available on the Internet. [1]

Local ISP in Manhattan installing fiber for provisioning Internet access Stealth Fiber Crew installing fiber cable underneath the streets of Manhattan.jpg
Local ISP in Manhattan installing fiber for provisioning Internet access


The Internet (originally ARPAnet) was developed as a network between government research laboratories and participating departments of universities. Other companies and organizations joined by direct connection to the backbone, or by arrangements through other connected companies, sometimes using dialup tools such as UUCP. By the late 1980s, a process was set in place towards public, commercial use of the Internet. Some restrictions were removed by 1991, [2] shortly after the introduction of the World Wide Web. [3]

During the 1980s, online service providers such as CompuServe and America On Line (AOL) began to offer limited capabilities to access the Internet, such as e-mail interchange, but full access to the Internet was not readily available to the general public.

In 1989, the first Internet service providers, companies offering the public direct access to the Internet for a monthly fee, were established in Australia [4] and the United States. In Brookline, Massachusetts, The World became the first commercial ISP in the US. Its first customer was served in November 1989. [5] These companies generally offered dial-up connections, using the public telephone network to provide last-mile connections to their customers. The barriers to entry for dial-up ISPs were low and many providers emerged.

However, cable television companies and the telephone carriers already had wired connections to their customers and could offer Internet connections at much higher speeds than dial-up using broadband technology such as cable modems and digital subscriber line (DSL). As a result, these companies often became the dominant ISPs in their service areas, and what was once a highly competitive ISP market became effectively a monopoly or duopoly in countries with a commercial telecommunications market, such as the United States.

In 1995, NSFNET was decommissioned removing the last restrictions on the use of the Internet to carry commercial traffic and network access points were created to allow peering arrangements between commercial ISPs.

Net neutrality

On 23 April 2014, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) was reported to be considering a new rule permitting ISPs to offer content providers a faster track to send content, thus reversing their earlier net neutrality position. [6] [7] [8] A possible solution to net neutrality concerns may be municipal broadband, according to Professor Susan Crawford, a legal and technology expert at Harvard Law School. [9] On 15 May 2014, the FCC decided to consider two options regarding Internet services: first, permit fast and slow broadband lanes, thereby compromising net neutrality; and second, reclassify broadband as a telecommunication service, thereby preserving net neutrality. [10] [11] On 10 November 2014, President Barack Obama recommended that the FCC reclassify broadband Internet service as a telecommunications service in order to preserve net neutrality. [12] [13] [14] On 16 January 2015, Republicans presented legislation, in the form of a U.S. Congress H.R. discussion draft bill, that makes concessions to net neutrality but prohibits the FCC from accomplishing the goal or enacting any further regulation affecting Internet service providers. [15] [16] On 31 January 2015, AP News reported that the FCC will present the notion of applying ("with some caveats") Title II (common carrier) of the Communications Act of 1934 to the Internet in a vote expected on 26 February 2015. [17] [18] [19] [20] [21] Adoption of this notion would reclassify Internet service from one of information to one of the telecommunications [22] and, according to Tom Wheeler, chairman of the FCC, ensure net neutrality. [23] [24] The FCC was expected to enforce net neutrality in its vote, according to The New York Times . [25] [26]

On 26 February 2015, the FCC ruled in favor of net neutrality by adopting Title II (common carrier) of the Communications Act of 1934 and Section 706 in the Telecommunications Act of 1996 to the Internet. [27] [28] [29] The FCC Chairman, Tom Wheeler, commented, "This is no more a plan to regulate the Internet than the First Amendment is a plan to regulate free speech. They both stand for the same concept." [30] On 12 March 2015, the FCC released the specific details of the net neutrality rules. [31] [32] [33] On 13 April 2015, the FCC published the final rule on its new "Net Neutrality" regulations. [34] [35] These rules went into effect on 12 June 2015. [36]

Upon becoming FCC chairman in April 2017, Ajit Pai proposed an end to net neutrality, awaiting votes from the commission. [37] [38] On 21 November 2017, Pai announced that a vote will be held by FCC members on 14 December 2017 on whether to repeal the policy. [39] On 11 June 2018, the repeal of the FCC's network neutrality rules took effect. [40]

Provisions for low-income families

Most ISPs offer discounts to low-income families, with internet service available for as little as $10 a month. Eligibility for these programs usually requires documentation of enrollment in a government assistance program such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).[ citation needed ]


Access providers

Access provider ISPs provide Internet access, employing a range of technologies to connect users to their network. [41] Available technologies have ranged from computer modems with acoustic couplers to telephone lines, to television cable (CATV), Wi-Fi, and fiber optics.

For users and small businesses, traditional options include copper wires to provide dial-up, DSL, typically asymmetric digital subscriber line (ADSL), cable modem or Integrated Services Digital Network (ISDN) (typically basic rate interface). Using fiber-optics to end users is called Fiber To The Home or similar names. [42]

Customers with more demanding requirements (such as medium-to-large businesses, or other ISPs) can use higher-speed DSL (such as single-pair high-speed digital subscriber line), Ethernet, metropolitan Ethernet, gigabit Ethernet, Frame Relay, ISDN Primary Rate Interface, ATM (Asynchronous Transfer Mode) and synchronous optical networking (SONET). [43]

Wireless access is another option, including cellular and satellite Internet access.

Mailbox providers

A mailbox provider is an organization that provides services for hosting electronic mail domains with access to storage for mail boxes. It provides email servers to send, receive, accept, and store email for end users or other organizations.

Many mailbox providers are also access providers, [44] while others are not (e.g., Gmail, Yahoo! Mail,, AOL Mail, Po box). The definition given in RFC 6650 covers email hosting services, as well as the relevant department of companies, universities, organizations, groups, and individuals that manage their mail servers themselves. The task is typically accomplished by implementing Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP) and possibly providing access to messages through Internet Message Access Protocol (IMAP), the Post Office Protocol, Webmail, or a proprietary protocol. [45]

Hosting ISPs

Internet hosting services provide email, web-hosting, or online storage services. Other services include virtual server, cloud services, or physical server operation. [46] [ failed verification ]

Transit ISPs

Tiers 1 and 2 ISP interconnections Internet Connectivity Distribution & Core.svg
Tiers 1 and 2 ISP interconnections

Just as their customers pay them for Internet access, ISPs themselves pay upstream ISPs for Internet access. An upstream ISP usually has a larger network than the contracting ISP or is able to provide the contracting ISP with access to parts of the Internet the contracting ISP by itself has no access to. [47]

In the simplest case, a single connection is established to an upstream ISP and is used to transmit data to or from areas of the Internet beyond the home network; this mode of interconnection is often cascaded multiple times until reaching a tier 1 carrier. In reality, the situation is often more complex. ISPs with more than one point of presence (PoP) may have separate connections to an upstream ISP at multiple PoPs, or they may be customers of multiple upstream ISPs and may have connections to each one of them at one or more point of presence. [47] Transit ISPs provide large amounts of bandwidth for connecting hosting ISPs and access ISPs. [48]

Virtual ISPs

A virtual ISP (VISP) is an operation that purchases services from another ISP, sometimes called a wholesale ISP in this context, [49] which allow the VISP's customers to access the Internet using services and infrastructure owned and operated by the wholesale ISP. VISPs resemble mobile virtual network operators and competitive local exchange carriers for voice communications.

Free ISPs

Free ISPs are Internet service providers that provide service free of charge. Many free ISPs display advertisements while the user is connected; like commercial television, in a sense they are selling the user's attention to the advertiser. Other free ISPs, sometimes called freenets, are run on a nonprofit basis, usually with volunteer staff. [50]

Wireless ISP

A wireless Internet service provider (WISP) is an Internet service provider with a network based on wireless networking. Technology may include commonplace Wi-Fi wireless mesh networking, or proprietary equipment designed to operate over open 900 MHz, 2.4 GHz, 4.9, 5.2, 5.4, 5.7, and 5.8 GHz bands or licensed frequencies such as 2.5 GHz (EBS/BRS), 3.65 GHz (NN) and in the UHF band (including the MMDS frequency band) and LMDS. [51]


ISPs may engage in peering, where multiple ISPs interconnect at peering points or Internet exchange points (IXPs), allowing routing of data between each network, without charging one another for the data transmitted—data that would otherwise have passed through a third upstream ISP, incurring charges from the upstream ISP. [47]

ISPs requiring no upstream and having only customers (end customers or peer ISPs) are called Tier 1 ISPs.

Network hardware, software and specifications, as well as the expertise of network management personnel are important in ensuring that data follows the most efficient route, and upstream connections work reliably. A tradeoff between cost and efficiency is possible. [50]

Law enforcement and intelligence assistance

Internet service providers in many countries are legally required (e.g., via Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA) in the U.S.) to allow law enforcement agencies to monitor some or all of the information transmitted by the ISP, or even store the browsing history of users to allow government access if needed (e.g. via the Investigatory Powers Act 2016 in the United Kingdom). Furthermore, in some countries ISPs are subject to monitoring by intelligence agencies. In the U.S., a controversial National Security Agency program known as PRISM provides for broad monitoring of Internet users traffic and has raised concerns about potential violation of the privacy protections in the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution. [52] [53] Modern ISPs integrate a wide array of surveillance and packet sniffing equipment into their networks, which then feeds the data to law-enforcement/intelligence networks (such as DCSNet in the United States, or SORM [54] in Russia) allowing monitoring of Internet traffic in real time.

See also

Related Research Articles

History of the Internet History of the Internet, a global system of interconnected computer networks

The history of the Internet has its origin in the efforts to build and interconnect computer networks that arose from research and development in the United States and involved international collaboration, particularly with researchers in the United Kingdom and France.

Federal Communications Commission Independent agency of the United States government

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is an independent agency of the United States government that regulates communications by radio, television, wire, satellite, and cable across the United States. The FCC maintains jurisdiction over the areas of broadband access, fair competition, radio frequency use, media responsibility, public safety, and homeland security.

In telecommunications, broadband is wide bandwidth data transmission which transports multiple signals and traffic types. The medium can be coaxial cable, optical fiber, radio, twisted pair or satellite. In the context of Internet access, broadband is used to mean any high-speed Internet access that is always on and faster than dial-up access over traditional analog or ISDN PSTN services.

Internet access Individual connection to the internet

Internet access is the ability of individuals and organizations to connect to the Internet using computer terminals, computers, and other devices; and to access services such as email and the World Wide Web. Internet access is sold by Internet service providers (ISPs) delivering connectivity at a wide range of data transfer rates via various networking technologies. Many organizations, including a growing number of municipal entities, also provide cost-free wireless access and landlines.

Net neutrality Principle that Internet service providers should treat all data equally

Network neutrality, most commonly called net neutrality, is the principle that Internet service providers (ISPs) must treat all Internet communications equally, and not discriminate or charge differently based on user, content, website, platform, application, type of equipment, source address, destination address, or method of communication.

Bandwidth throttling is the intentional slowing or speeding of an internet service by an Internet service provider (ISP). It is a reactive measure employed in communication networks to regulate network traffic and minimize bandwidth congestion. Bandwidth throttling can occur at different locations on the network. On a local area network (LAN), a system administrator ("sysadmin") may employ bandwidth throttling to help limit network congestion and server crashes. On a broader level, the Internet service provider may use bandwidth throttling to help reduce a user's usage of bandwidth that is supplied to the local network. Bandwidth throttling is also used as a measurement of data rate on Internet speed test websites.

National Cable & Telecommunications Association v. Brand X Internet Services, 545 U.S. 967 (2005), is a United States Supreme Court case in which the Court declared in a 6–3 decision that the administrative law principle of Chevron deference to statutory interpretations by administrative agencies tasked with executing the statute trumped the precedents of the United States Courts of Appeals unless the Court of Appeals had held that the statute was "unambiguous" under the Chevron deference. The Supreme Court therefore upheld the Federal Communications Commission's determination that a cable Internet provider is an "information service", and not a "telecommunications service" and as such competing internet service providers (ISPs) like Brand X Internet were denied access to the cable and phone wires to provide home users with competing internet service.

In the United States, net neutrality, the principle that Internet service providers (ISPs) treat all data on the Internet the same, and not discriminate, has been an issue of contention between network users and access providers since the 1990s. With net neutrality, ISPs may not intentionally block, slow down, or charge money for specific online content. Without net neutrality, ISPs may prioritize certain types of traffic, meter others, or potentially block traffic from specific services, while charging consumers for various tiers of service.

Internet in the United States Overview of the Internet in the United States of America

The Internet in the United States grew out of the ARPANET, a network sponsored by the Advanced Research Projects Agency of the U.S. Department of Defense during the 1960s. The Internet in the United States in turn provided the foundation for the worldwide Internet of today.

Comcast Corp. v. FCC, 600 F.3d 642, is a 2010 United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia case holding that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) does not have ancillary jurisdiction over Comcast's Internet service under the language of the Communications Act of 1934. In so holding, the Court vacated a 2008 order issued by the FCC that asserted jurisdiction over Comcast's network management policies and censured Comcast from interfering with its subscribers' use of peer-to-peer software.

Tiered service structures allow users to select from a small set of tiers at progressively increasing price points to receive the product or products best suited to their needs. Such systems are frequently seen in the telecommunications field, specifically when it comes to wireless service, digital and cable television options, and broadband internet access.

The Federal Communications Commission Open Internet Order is a set of regulations that move towards the establishment of the internet neutrality concept. Some opponents of net neutrality believe such internet regulation would inhibit innovation by preventing providers from capitalizing on their broadband investments and reinvesting that money into higher quality services for consumers. Supporters of net neutrality argue that the presence of content restrictions by network providers represents a threat to individual expression and the rights of the First Amendment. Open Internet strikes a balance between these two camps by creating a compromised set of regulations that treats all internet traffic in "roughly the same way". In Verizon v. FCC, the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit vacated portions of the order that the court determined could only be applied to common carriers.

Internet bottlenecks are places in telecommunication networks in which internet service providers (ISPs), or naturally occurring high use of the network, slow or alter the network speed of the users and/or content producers using that network. A bottleneck is a more general term for a system that has been reduced or slowed due to limited resources or components. The bottleneck occurs in a network when there are too many users attempting to access a specific resource. Internet bottlenecks provide artificial and natural network choke points to inhibit certain sets of users from overloading the entire network by consuming too much bandwidth. Theoretically, this will lead users and content producers through alternative paths to accomplish their goals while limiting the network load at any one time. Alternatively, internet bottlenecks have been seen as a way for ISPs to take advantage of their dominant market-power increasing rates for content providers to push past bottlenecks. The United States Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has created regulations stipulating that artificial bottlenecks are in direct opposition to a free and open Internet.

Net bias is the counter-principle to net neutrality, which indicates differentiation or discrimination of price and the quality of content or applications on the Internet by ISPs. Similar terms include data discrimination, digital redlining, and network management.

Tom Wheeler

Thomas Edgar Wheeler is an American businessman and politician. He was the 31st Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission and a member of the Democratic Party.

<i>Verizon Communications Inc. v. FCC</i> (2014)

Verizon Communications Inc. v. Federal Communications Commission was a 2014 U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit case vacating portions of the FCC Open Internet Order 2010 that the court determined could only be applied to common carriers. The court ruled that the FCC did not have the authority to impose the order in its entirety. Because the FCC had previously classified broadband providers under Title I of the Communications Act of 1934, the court ruled that the FCC had relinquished its right to regulate them like common carriers. The case was largely viewed as a loss for network neutrality supporters and a victory for the cable broadband industry. Of the three orders that make up the FCC Open Internet Order 2010, two were vacated and one was upheld (transparency). Judge David S. Tatel wrote the opinion with Judge Judith Ann Wilson Rogers joining. Judge Laurence H. Silberman wrote a separate decision concurring in part and dissenting in part.

Zero-rating Internet access under certain conditions

Zero-rating is the practice of providing Internet access without financial cost under certain conditions, such as by permitting access to only certain websites or by subsidizing the service with advertising or by exempting certain websites from the data allowance.

Net neutrality law refers to laws and regulations which enforce the principle of net neutrality.

"Net Neutrality" is the first segment of the HBO news satire television series Last Week Tonight with John Oliver devoted to net neutrality in the United States. It aired for 13 minutes on June 1, 2014, as part of the fifth episode of Last Week Tonight's first season.

Net neutrality is the principle that governments should mandate Internet service providers to treat all data on the Internet the same, and not discriminate or charge differently by user, content, website, platform, application, type of attached equipment, or method of communication. For instance, under these principles, internet service providers are unable to intentionally block, slow down or charge money for specific websites and online content.


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