What Is an ISP?
Your ISP is your internet service provider. It is the company that provides you with access to the internet and often provides you with a router, too.
Most countries and locations have several ISPs to choose from, each with different subscription plans, access technology, and connection speeds.
In addition to providing individuals and businesses with access to the internet, ISPs can also offer data center and cloud services, entertainment software, email accounts, and other software packages.
Since the development of smartphones and mobile data services, many phone carriers and telecommunications companies are also ISPs.
The largest ISPs will maintain their own web servers and typically own the network infrastructure in their region.
It controls your access to the internet, which means your ISP can see everything that you do online. It knows important information like your IP address, your geolocation, and the DNS queries your devices make when using the internet. It is also capable of seeing and examining all unencrypted traffic that goes to and from your router and the wider internet.
Examples of Internet Service Providers
Most of the world’s largest ISPs are also telecommunications companies that offer a multitude of services.
For example, AT&T is the largest ISP in the United States. In addition to broadband internet, it offers telephone and mobile data services, as well as telecommunications and networking equipment.
Other popular American ISPs include Verizon, Comcast, and Mediacom. In the UK, the biggest ISPs by market share include BT, Virgin Media, Sky, and Talk Talk.
What’s the Difference Between Your ISP and Your IP Address?
While they may sound similar, your ISP and your IP address are different things:
- Your ISP is your internet service provider. It is the company responsible for connecting your router to the internet and assigning you an IP address.
- Your IP address is your router’s unique identifier. It is a unique sequence of characters assigned to your network that can be seen by the websites you visit, apps you use, peers torrenting with you, and your ISP.
Your IP address is assigned to you by your ISP. When you browse the internet, it’s freely visible not just to your ISP, but to anyone else who knows how to look for it.
In other words, your IP address can be used to trace your activity back to your ISP and eventually your identity.
By using a VPN, you hide your IP true address from websites and snoopers and replace it with the IP address of a VPN server. Your activity will be encrypted and indecipherable, even to your ISP – although your ISP will still be able to see that you’re using a VPN.