An Internet Service Provider (ISP), also sometimes referred to as an IAP (Internet access provider), has the equipment and the telecommunication line access required to have a “point-of-presence” (PoP) on the internet for the geographical area served. Many of the large 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. They may also interconnect with each other through switching centres. These arrangements to exchange traffic are known as “peering” agreements.
This Contract is for use between an ISP and any company or individual (though individuals will usually use hosting companies which also offer ISP services) which wants access to the Internet. They may perhaps also want other related services such as website building and “virtual hosting” though these will be subject to additional hosting terms.
As connectivity is the key offering, the user must rely on the third party ISP for 24x7x365 connectivity (“uptime”) it will want an ISP with the highest guaranteed connectivity/uptime (often expressed as a percentage, e.g. 99.99% uptime). Also security and privacy are important and a user will seek to have these assurances in the agreement.
From the ISP’s point of view, it is important to ensure that the user’s material which it will be carrying and contained on its website (and the material to which it can be linked) is neither illegal under civil law (e.g. containing infringing material such as pirated software or defamatory information), illegal under criminal law (e.g. human trafficking, money laundering, terrorist activities) nor is the content harmful (e.g. containing material which is likely to offend any racial or religious group), otherwise the ISP may incur liability if it knows, or is made aware of, the nature of the website content. Although there are several jurisdictions which have specific legislation relating to the liability of ISPs for content which they host as opposed to material for which they merely “carry” (i.e. act as a “mere conduit”), there is growing pressure on ISPs and web hosts, in the wake of frequent terrorist attacks organised over the internet, to work together to monitor and block illegal and harmful material and report such activity to law enforcement.
To ensure the ISP has the right to do this, their contracts/Terms of service, Acceptable Use Policies and Code of Conduct must specify the now most commonly accepted standards, evolved over the decades of internet use from a cross-section of legislative measures from numerous jurisdictions (e.g. Europe, USA, Australia, Canada to name but a few) as well as from generally accepted standards of internet usage (“netiquette”).