An Internet service provider, or I-S-P, is the middleman between you and the World Wide Web. Large corporations may be able to afford the hardware and software to connect directly, but most home and small business users require a service provider. Your computer connects with theirs, and they provide the gateway onto the Internet. The services and prices offered by different service providers can vary quite a bit, so it pays to shop around. Your computer's modem determines how fast you can send and receive information over the Internet. If you're connecting over a telephone line, fifty-six point six thousand bytes per second is the fastest speed available, although workable connections can be made with slower connections, as well. A dedicated wire or optical fiber line can connect at 64 or 128 thousand bytes per second with what's called an I-S-D-N connection, which stands for Integrated Services Digital Network. The fastest connections, costing hundreds of dollars a month, can transmit and receive data at a rate of millions of bytes per second. If you don't use the internet a lot, or only during certain hours, you might be able to get access at a lower rate than users who buy unlimited usage. Other services can provide a wide range of services beyond simple internet connections. Ask friends and co-workers for recommendations when you're shopping for a service provider.
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