An ISP (Internet service provider) is a company that provides individuals and other companies access to the Internet and other related services such as Web site building and virtual hosting. An ISP has the equipment and the telecommunication line access required to have a point-of-presence on the Internet for the geographic area served. The larger ISPs have their own high-speed leased lines so that they are less dependent on the telecommunication providers and can provide better service to their customers. Among the largest national and regional ISPs are AT&T WorldNet, IBM Global Network, MCI, Netcom, UUNet, and PSINet.
ISPs also include regional providers such as New England’s NEARNet and the San Francisco Bay area BARNet. They also include thousands of local providers. In addition, Internet users can also get access through online service providers (OSP) such as America Online and Compuserve.
The larger ISPs interconnect with each other through MAE (ISP switching centers run by MCI WorldCom) or similar centers. The arrangements they make to exchange traffic are known as peering agreements. There are several very comprehensive lists of ISPs world-wide available on the Web.
An ISP is also sometimes referred to as an IAP (Internet access provider). ISP is sometimes used as an abbreviation for independent service provider to distinguish a service provider that is an independent, separate company from a telephone company.