Updated: 08/16/2021 by Computer Hope

Alternatively called an access provider or network provider, an ISP (Internet service provider) is a company that provides Internet access to users or subscribers of its service. An ISP gives you an Internet account (access to the Internet), e-mail address, web space for a web page for around $20.00 U.S. dollars a month. Prices may vary in other countries.


An ISP is also sometimes called an IAP (Internet access provider) and online service provider.


As more people move to broadband, the traditional dial-up ISP and all its services is being replaced. Today, if you are using broadband, you have a broadband provider such as Comcast and are probably using other online services to provide other services. For example, using Gmail as your e-mail provider.

America Online

Other services known as an OSP (online service provider) like AOL allow access to proprietary features such as chat rooms, stocks, software, more support, and accessibility globally. These services used specialized software or browser to give their users access to these services. Today, all OSPs are now only an ISP as all services are provided through the Internet and any browser.

Do I need an ISP to connect to the Internet?

On a computer, yes you need an ISP to connect to the Internet. To connect to the Internet, you need either an ISP, cable company, or other company that provides the necessary hardware to connect to the Internet.

On a smartphone, your MNO (mobile network operator) provides you access to the Internet.

ISP history

The first ISP is widely believed to be Telenet, which was the first commercial version of ARPANET introduced in 1974. The first ISP for the Internet we know and use today is considered to be "The World" who started serving customers in 1989.

List of major ISPs

Computer acronyms, External IP address, Internet, Internet terms, Network terms, NSP, Telenet, Web host