Internet Tutorials | John Faughnan | Robert Elson

A Typical Internet Service Provider

  • Introduction
  • Access
  • Documentation and Support
  • Software
  • Fees
  • Contact
  • last rev: 01 Nov 2004.


    MindSpring ( is one of our top rated Internet Service Providers (ISPs). It focuses on home and small business users, it's been around for a long time by ISP standards, and it's maintained a consistent reputation for service. They're not perfect (I think their web site is fairly weak), but they're as good as it gets.

    You can use the information here as a basis for comparison with other services. You'll find that MindSpring charges are somewhat higher than average; they justify this by claiming to provide a higher level of service and reliability. I use MindSpring as one of my personal and business ISPs.


    MindSpring, like other consumer oriented ISPs, pays other communications companies to provide local dial-up access. MindSpring's providers covers most of the country, with both high speed (V.34) and ISDN connections. In some cities, where MindSpring's provider is over-booked, MindSpring will not allow new customers to join. This is the mark of a high quality ISP -- they won't promise what they can't deliver.

    Documentation and Support

    MindSpring provides a reasonably well written manual and superb phone and online support.


    MindSpring is a standard Internet Service Provider. They do not use their own proprietary technology, as does America Online. If you're an expert, you can get pretty much any computer to connect with MindSpring -- from Windows 98 to Linux to the BeOS.. They do, however, provide basic starter software and help for Windows 95 (best), Windows 3.1 (untested), and the Macintosh (fair to poor).

    Windows 95/98

    MindSpring provides a typical bundle of software to new clients. They call it MindSpring Internet Desktop. Based on their (limited) web site material and past offereings, it probably includes (see also our software recommendations):

    As is usual for an ISP, some of this software is "shareware". The shareware license allows for a trial-period use, but beyond that time the software must be paid for.

    Windows 3.1

    MindSpring still supports Windows 3.1.

    MindSpring's Windows 3.1 software does use their proprietary connection software (essential, since Windows 3.1 does not provide any built-in software).


    MindSpring claims to support Macintosh users, but it's not their principal focus. The Macintosh software bundle includes Internet Explorer 4.01. (Macintosh may be better served by another ISP, see our Getting Connected document.)

    Other Computers

    If your computer can work with standard PPP connections and can "talk TCP/IP", then you can use MindSpring. However, setup and configuration and software will be up to you. (Example: OS/2, Newton, Amiga, Linux, UNIX, etc.)

    Fees (Dialup Accounts)

    All plans include dialup access, email service, newsgroup access, and spam filtering. Startup fee is $25 for any account, and that fee covers the first month of service. You can switch between accounts at any time. There's a 10-15% discount for prepayment. You can sign up or change plans online. All plans can support additional mailboxes on the same account for $5.00/month/mailbox.

    Type Cost Special Features
    Light $6.95/month for 5 hours
    $2.00/additional hr
    • personal web page (5MB) and FTP service
    Standard $14.95/month for 20 hours.
    $1.00/additonal hr
    • personal web page (5MB) and FTP service
    Unlimited $19.95/month flat fee
    • personal web page (5MB) and FTP service
    The Works $26.95/month flat fee
    • 2 extra mailboxes
      (personal or family)
    • 10 MB personal web space and FTP server

    800 service is an additional $6.00 per hour of use. (pretty average)


    Mail: 1430 Peachtree Street Suite 400, Atlanta GA 30309
    Phone: 800-719-4664, 404-815-0770

    Last Revised: 01 Feb 2002. Author: John G. Faughnan M.D. and Robert Elson M.D. Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this and related pages are strictly those of the page authors. Anyone may link to or print out any of these pages.