In today’s fast-paced technological world, the internet undeniably plays a crucial role in our lives. It cuts across how we communicate, browse the web, send emails, stream videos, and access information in general. But have you ever wondered how all these activities are possible? That’s where the power of our unsung heroes, ISPs, comes into play.
Internet Service Providers (ISPs) are organizations responsible for creating the connection between your hardware and a larger network system. Thus, allowing you to access the internet on your devices. To use an ISP, you must subscribe to its proprietary data plan, and a modem or router is usually given to you for connection purposes.
In any case, you need to understand the role of your ISP’s role and the importance of speed, uptime, reliability, and customer support before making a financial decision. To this end, this article will dive into what an ISP is, how to identify who your ISP is, the types of ISPs, and how they impact your overall internet experience.
How to check your ISP
Below are steps you can use to know who your current broadband provider is;
- Go to your browser
- On your browser, visit https://privacysavvy.com/tools/what-is-my-ip/
- Once you’re on the page, you’ll see your ISP below your IP address, as shown in the screenshot below
Who can see your ISP?
If you aren’t using a VPN, your ISP or location can be traced through your IP address using a reverse lookup tool.
Every IP address belongs to specific ISPs, so if anyone decides to track your location, all that is needed is your IP address.
What is an ISP?
Usually called ISPs, Internet Service Providers provide individuals and businesses access to the Internet. As the name implies, they provide internet services for many customers. They do this through various means, cutting across fiber-optic, dial-up, broadband, and DSL services.
What’s more, ISPs offer additional services, including:
- Web hosting
- Email hosting
- Virtual private networks (VPNs)
- Broadband internet connection
- Cloud services
- Entertainment software
As companies continue evolving, many mobile carriers, telephone, and cable provider companies have added ISP to their product offerings. In some cases, these companies could provide additional services as outlined above. And in other cases, they may specialize in one service, like fiber optic services.
Internet Service Providers are especially important when it comes to handling network congestion and maintaining infrastructure. This helps to ensure that internet traffic runs smoothly.
But here’s the catch. ISPs are notorious for keeping track of your online activities, and in severe cases, they can share your information with third parties.
To ensure customer privacy and curb insecurity, ISPs are regulated by strict laws that safeguard customer privacy and encourage fair competition. We have numerous ISPs available in most nations and regions, each with various subscription packages, access methods, and connections you can choose from.
Example of ISPs
Various Internet Service Providers are available globally, and the availability of these ISPs varies depending on the region or country you are in. Below are examples of ISPs;
- Comcast: This is one of the largest ISPs in the US, offering TV, Phone, and cable services.
- Vodafone: This is a global telecommunication company operating in different countries. In addition, this company provides fixed-line and mobile internet services.
- China Telecom: One of the largest ISPs available in China, providing telecommunication and internet services.
- AT&T: This is the largest ISP in the US, and it is also a global telecommunication company that offers wireless internet, broadband, telephone, mobile, fiber optic, and DSL services.
- British Telcom (BT): This company provides broadband and phone services and is the UK’s largest ISP.
- Verizon: This is the leading telecommunication company in the US that offers DSL and fiber optic services.
- NTT Communications: This is a major ISP in Japan that offers data, cloud, and internet connectivity services.
What is the difference between your ISP and your IP address?
With so many technical terms flying around, confusing your ISP with your IP address is easy. However, they are completely different. In any case, here’s what you need to know.
- Your ISP is a company that connects you to the internet. It assigns you an IP (Internet Protocol) address that allows other devices on the internet to communicate with your device.
- Your IP address is a unique set of numbers–essentially an ID–that enables your computer, smartphone, or server to interact with various devices over a network. A digital address enables your device to send and receive data.
Your IP allows your online activities to be tracked, which can cause harm. So, to prevent being tracked and your data being leaked, you should use a Virtual Private Network (VPN). With this VPN, your IP address is masked, and all your ISP can see is the IP address of your VPN server.
Why is your ISP important? (ISP surveillance explained)
Your ISP is important because it determines your connection speed and the price you pay for your internet. Also, it plays an important role in your online privacy.
As explained earlier, your ISP tracks your online activities, and you can’t decide the information they get to keep or pick up. In some countries, the government can access online data and engage in profile blocks.
Regardless of what ISP you use, here are some factors you might want to consider.
1. Your ISP monitors everything you do online
Your ISP sees everything you do online, no matter your privacy precautions. If you’re using a VPN or connected to HTTPS websites, your ISP can still keep track of and take note of every domain name of the website you can access.
HTTPS is also used by torrenting hackers, meaning your ISP can still see your torrent files. In some countries, downloading content illegally can result in strict fines and jail time. So, always respecting intellectual property rights and accessing content legally is essential.
In countries like the UK, the US, Canada, and some European states, your ISP is allowed to monitor and store your online activities to an extent, and the extent to which this happens depends on applicable laws and jurisdiction. The information gathered is stored for six months and analyzed for security and law enforcement purposes. ISP monitoring involves collecting information such as internet data usage, sites visited, search queries, and online communication.
Aside from the government policies around your ISP, your ISP has various monitoring practices, which depend on your agreement with your ISP. Some ISPs have more invasive monitoring practices than others. Some prioritize user privacy, while others have strict rules concerning data collection.
2. Your ISP can throttle your internet connection
Under certain circumstances, your ISP can slow down or throttle your internet connection. Throttling is simply reducing your internet speed or bandwidth by your ISP. Your ISP can choose to employ throttling techniques for the following reasons;
- Data caps: ISPs enforce data caps to restrict the amount of data you use within a billing period. This usually encourages customers to control their data usage or upgrade to a higher-paid plan.
- Specific applications or services: Some services or applications can be throttled by your ISP to prevent excessive bandwidth usage while streaming movies online, for example. This is also done to encourage customers to use their preferred streaming platforms.
- Network congestion: When many users access the internet simultaneously, ISPs throttle internet speed to manage network congestion and improve user experience. ISPs can allocate bandwidth effectively by limiting download speed and video streaming speed.
If you think your ISP is throttling your internet speed or bandwidth, you can review your ISP’s terms and conditions and further contact their customer support for clarification. You can also use a VPN to prevent your internet speed or bandwidth from being throttled. With the VPN, your ISP can’t detect your sent or received traffic.
Types of ISPs
Five key ISP types exist today; we’ll list and explain them in this section.
1. Dial-up service
As you might have guessed, this relies heavily on telephone infrastructure. Do you know how you make a call using your regular phone line? Well, the Dial-up service is very similar to that. It leverages the same public switched telephone network to facilitate a connection with an ISP. However, to access this internet service, you’ll need a modem.
You also need to note one more thing. Since telephone lines experience a high amount of traffic, the speed of Dial-up services often throttles. Consequently, this has reduced the demand for Dial-up services.
2. Digital subscriber line (DSL)
Digital subscriber line services also leverage telephone lines to transmit data across networks. It uses the voice frequency of telephone lines to facilitate this.
Even though they both use telephone lines, DSL is significantly faster than dial-up services. Why?
It’s simple: DSL operates on different frequencies from dial-up. These frequencies allow for increased bandwidth which facilitates faster connections.
3. High-speed cable internet
This internet service grants you access to higher speed, especially in low-traffic areas. If you want to get online, you only need to connect your laptop to a special connector and then connect your cable router.
Unlike DSL, cable connection speed is affected by the volume of traffic on the network. This volume is generated due to the ability of the system to accommodate more users.
4. Fiber optic internet
Revered as one of the best ways to facilitate internet connectivity, fiber optic internet transmits data using pulses of light that move across fiber cables.
As great as this sounds, it does have a few drawbacks. Here’s the biggest one: Fiber optic internet is new, and it takes time to lay the cables locally, so this method isn’t as widely used as the others.
5. Satellite internet service
Poised as a great alternative to DSL and fiber optic internet, this service grants access to the internet through a communication satellite.
Even though this avenue is cheaper than other options, it’s not infallible. You see, satellite internet service has a slow upload speed but a fast download speed, and this is due to the use of a modem.
Why do you need to learn about your ISP?
Knowing your ISP will help you understand how your personal information is used and the privacy measures you can take to protect it. This is because your ISP keeps copies of every data you transmit or receive online.
1. Your ISP could be making decisions for you
When you choose an ISP, you expect to be able to stream online services with ease and at high speed. But sometimes, your ISP interrupts your internet speed and connections and makes decisions for you without your knowledge.
2. Your ISP could be restricting your bandwidth
ISPs are known for providing users with lower speeds and restricted bandwidth at peak hours. So as a user, you’ll end up paying more for less because you won’t be offered quality services. This mainly occurs if your ISP isn’t a known supplier.
Before choosing an ISP, you should know about their services and any policy that might warrant subsequent updates. Users should also be allowed to test out these internet service providers to avoid misinformation.
Understanding what is my ISP tool
An ISP tool helps solve wireless connection problems, check your internet provider, connect to a new router, and install your personal router. From this page, you can find your IP’s approximate location, the geolocation of your IP if you’re connected to a VPN, and also know who your ISP is.
Also, the What is my ISP section can help you better understand your ISP, ISP name, and IP address. With this information, you’ll know why you’re not receiving the fast speed and limitless bandwidth your ISP provider promised you access to.
After researching, you’d be able to verify if your ISP is abiding by its policies, as well as the established terms and conditions.
Importance of knowing your ISP and the level of surveillance
As earlier stated, your ISP monitors all your internet activities, and you can’t control what it has access to. The 5 Eyes, 9 Eyes, 14 Eyes alliance operates surveillance programs that allow ISPs to record users’ online data and activities. These surveillance programs include:
Your Internet Service Provider is important in connecting your device to the internet and enabling your online activities. It serves as a gateway between your devices and the wide network of the internet, thereby granting you access to services that will enable you to access websites, send emails, stream content, and involve in online interactions.
Additionally, your ISP provides your IP address, manages your network connection, and offers different data plans and speeds to meet your specific needs.
Understanding your ISP and its capabilities will help you make great decisions about internet services, ensuring a reliable and remarkable online experience.
Absolutely not. The internet is an enormous system of computer networks that allows you to access relevant information. On the other hand, a router is a device that lets you access a system of computer networks.
Except you’re using a premium VPN service, your IP can be viewed by anyone using a reverse IP lookup tool.
Both devices allow you to access the internet. However, there’s one key difference. A modem connects your home to the internet (system of computer networks), while a router grants you access to a local system of networks, popularly called the Local Area Network (LAN).
It’s pretty simple! All you need to do is use this tool, and you’ll also be able to view your ISP server.
Based on speed and reliability, the best internet connection type is Fiber Optic.