Short for Internet Service Provider, an ISP 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.
Other services such as commercial online services like AOL allow access to proprietary features such as chat rooms, stocks, software, more support, and accessibility globally. However, may cost additional money. AOL, Earthlink, and MSN are just a few of the largest and well-known Internet service providers in the United States.
Tip: An ISP is also sometimes referred to as an IAP (Internet Access Provider).
Note: As more people move to broadband the traditional dial-up ISP and all of 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.
Do I need an ISP to connect to the Internet?
Yes. 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.
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.