What is an ISP?

Posted By BrokenClaw on January 2, 2008

Your Internet service provider, abbreviated ISP, is the company that you pay to connect your home computers to the Internet. In the early days of the Internet, online subscription services such as GEnie, Prodigy, CompuServe, and America Online (AOL), had dial-up services with graphical interfaces, but they were all closed systems. In other words, once you connected to them, you were limited to their services. In today’s environment, it would be as though you could connect to only their website.

In the early 1990s, independent local companies recognized that many home users wanted to access the entire Web without paying for those limited proprietary services. And so the local ISP was born.

Over the years, AOL became the dominant national online service in the US, and eventually they added Web access, but local dial-up ISPs continued to be competitive. With the introduction of home broadband services, the choices for an ISP became limited to either your cable TV provider, satellite TV provider, or a handful of companies offering DSL in your neighborhood. Most recently, a faster service called FiOS is starting to become available in some urban areas.

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