An Internet service provider (ISP) is a company or an organization that lets your computer connect to the World Wide Web. It provides customers access to one or more high-speed Internet lines.

An ISP may offer other services as well, such as web hosting and digital storage space rental services and access to software, among others. ISPs compete in terms of bandwidth and coverage—anything that enables them to provide the best signal and transmission speed.

So, what is an ISP? You can compare it to a water tap. There’s water flowing through the main pipe, but you can’t get any unless you install a faucet.

Other interesting terms…

Read More about an Internet Service Provider (ISP)

An ISP makes accessing the Internet possible. Most ISPs invest in miles of cables, build suitable infrastructure, and employ knowledgeable technicians to provide consumers with a wide variety of Internet connection service packages that suit their personal and business requirements.

What Are the Different Types of Internet Service Providers?

There are several types of ISPs, each offering different methods of delivering Internet services. The main types include:

  • Broadband ISPs: They can be classified further into:
    • Digital subscriber line (DSL) providers: They use existing telephone lines to deliver high-speed Internet. DSL is widely available and offers faster speeds compared to traditional dial-up.
    • Cable providers: They use cable TV lines to deliver Internet services with high-speed connections and are often available in urban and suburban areas.
    • Fiber-optic providers: They use optical fibers to transmit data using light signals. Fiber-optic Internet offers very high speeds and is known for its reliability. However, it may not be as widely available as DSL or cable.
  • Wireless ISPs: They can be categorized further into:
    • Fixed WISPs: They transmit Internet signals wirelessly to a fixed location using radio waves. It is common in rural or remote areas where laying cables may be impractical.
    • Mobile ISPs: They use cellular networks to provide Internet services to mobile devices. 3G, 4G, and 5G networks fall into this category.
  • Satellite ISPs: They use satellite signals to provide Internet access in remote areas where other types of infrastructure are not feasible.
  • Dial-up ISPs: They use traditional telephone lines to establish a connection to the Internet. Dial-up is an older technology and much slower than broadband options. It’s less common today due to the availability of faster alternatives.
  • Community networks or municipal ISPs: Some communities or municipalities provide their own Internet services to residents that can be a response to the lack of affordable or high-speed options from traditional ISPs.
  • Reseller or virtual ISPs: They purchase Internet services from larger providers and resell them to consumers. They often use the infrastructure of larger ISPs but may offer different service plans or pricing.
  • Web hosting providers: Some companies that primarily offer web hosting services may also provide Internet connectivity services to businesses.

Note that the availability of these types of ISPs vary significantly based on geographical location. In addition, technological advancements and industry changes may introduce new types over time.

ISP Types

What Services Do Internet Service Providers Offer?

In the past, ISPs offered only three types of services—dial-up, broadband cable, and DSL connectivity. Due to its slow speed, dial-up services became rare, if not obsolete, despite being highly affordable. To date, the different types of ISP offerings you can choose from are described below.

1. Satellite Internet Connectivity

Satellite Internet connectivity is an option often offered to those living in remote areas in place of dial-up service. It has a downside, though, as it requires significant infrastructure investments on the part of ISPs.

2. DSL Connectivity

DSL connections use existing landline phones in consumers’ homes. Users can make and receive phone calls while connected to the Internet. This type of connectivity allows users to enjoy average-speed Internet access without high equipment costs. Consumers only need to buy a modem. The speed depends on how far a consumer is from the nearest switching station.

3. Broadband Cable Connectivity

Cable TV service providers typically offer broadband cable connectivity. The connection speeds often vary, depending on the volume of users served at a given time. Note that the access speed also depends on a consumer’s geographical area. The more users there are in a specific area, the slower the connection is because they share bandwidth.

4. Fiber-Optic Cable Connectivity

Fiber-optic connectivity is perhaps the fastest and most preferred Internet service type ISPs provide today. Since it is relatively new, ISPs need to lay the groundwork for the service first. As such, serviceable areas remain limited. In terms of price, though, a monthly fiber-optic service subscription does not cost a lot more than DSL or broadband cable connections.

5. Wi-Fi Broadband Connectivity

Wi-Fi broadband is another type of connectivity offering. It allows multiple users to access the Internet with greater flexibility. Since they do not have to remain connected to a modem, users are free to move about and stay connected. Most users do that with a pocket Wi-Fi device that gives them the convenience of bringing connectivity wherever they go.

ISP Offerings by Download Speed

What Are Some Internet Service Provider Examples?

According to Forbes, the 10 best ISPs of 2024 are:

  • AT&T Internet
  • T-Mobile Home Internet
  • Xfinity
  • Verizon Fios
  • Cox Communications
  • Spectrum
  • Google Fiber
  • Kinetic by Windstream
  • HughesNet
  • Mediacom

These ISPs often provide more than one type of Internet service to consumers.

Choosing the right kind of Internet service depends on a user’s needs and package availability. Consumers also have to make sure that the connection they subscribe to is reliable.

Key Takeaways

  • An ISP refers to a company or an organization that lets your computer access the World Wide Web by providing one or more high-speed Internet lines.
  • ISPs used to offer only three types of connectivity options. That list has now grown to at least five—satellite Internet, DSL, broadband cable, fiber-optic cable, and Wi-Fi broadband connectivity.
  • Some ISPs also offer web hosting and digital storage space rental services and access to software, among others.