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Internet Service Providers

When selecting an Internet service provider, consider modem transmission.

There are a wide range of Internet Service Providers to choose from. [©Jupiter Images, 2009]
©Jupiter Images, 2009
There are a wide range of Internet Service Providers to choose from.

Internet Service Providers

Internet service providers (ISPs) allow computer users to access the Internet for a monthly fee. The ISP assigns the end-user with a software package, a user name and a password, after which the user is able to access information, as well as send and receive e-mail on the Internet.

ISPs operate on a point-to-point protocol (PPP) to access the Internet. With a PPP connection, the user's modem contacts the ISP's modem, and then the user links to one of the ISP's routers. Via the ISP's router, the user is able to connect to the World Wide Web and view information on websites around the globe.

According to the Internetworking Technology Handbook, all computers have a unique number called an Internet Protocol address (IP address). Though end-users think of the website address as the location of information, computers access the information by reading only the IP address. This is because the address is in the numeric form computers understand. The IP address provides the proper routing of information across the World Wide Web.

Comparing and Choosing the Right Internet Service Provider

The best place to locate and compare ISPs is on the World Wide Web. Comparing ISPs.com provides access to information regarding the top service providers and the costs of each provider. Some of the most popular ISPs, including Earthlink, Comcast, America Online and a host of others, are featured on the site with a breakdown of the costs and contract requirements for each ISP.

ISPs offer various connection speeds and methods of convenience in Internet access determined by the type of modem the end-user selects. The modem, which is short for modulator-demodulator, is a computer program that allows for the transmission of data to and from the Internet. A good way to select the right ISP is to choose the one that has the best modem transmission. Modems can be of the following types:

  • Dial-up -- This type of modem connects a computer device to the Internet using a telephone network. The connection is much like a phone connection except it is between computers instead of people. Dial-up Internet access is not of the highest quality since data rates via phone line are not always reliable and the speed of data transfer is significantly slower than with other modems.
  • Wi-Fi (Wireless Networking Technology) -- This type of modem is most commonly used on lap-top computers and operates without a physical wired connection between the sender and receiver because it uses radio waves to transmit information via an air card or other wireless modem device. The speeds are fast and the connection is usually quite reliable.
  • Broadband -- This is a high-speed data transmission method operating via a single cable that carries large quantities of data all at once. It operates via cable, digital subscriber line (DSL) or satellite. Broadband uses multi-channel technology that provides reliable and fast data transfer. Broadband is a popular choice for gamers or individuals who work from home and need high-speed service.

End-users should assess their Internet needs and then choose between ISPs. Also, take into account the customer service record of the ISPs. One should also find out what type of equipment the ISP provides and if they offer installation. The least expensive options are not always the best in terms of quality and service.

Assessing Individual Internet Needs

The end-user should next ask the following questions to determine their ISP needs:

  • How frequently will the Internet be used? If the end-user will be accessing the Internet infrequently, then dial-up or accelerated dial-up should be fine. The cost is minimal and should fit well with this level of use.
  • Will the Internet merely be used for fun or is it necessary for school and/or work? If the Internet will be used for entertainment, and speed is not an issue, then dial-up service would be fine. It is the cheapest and should suffice for this type of end-user.
  • Will multiple computers be connected to the ISP? With multiple computers, the Internet service needs to be broadband or digital because of the heavy data usage of more than one end-user. Slower modems will not support multiple computers effectively.

By asking these questions, the end-user can easily determine the best choice for an ISP. Cost, convenience and access are the main considerations regarding an effective ISP. In determining how well an ISP provides these elements, an end-user is more certain of an enjoyable and productive Internet experience.

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