Email: Slowly Dying or Going Strong?

October 29, 2009 at 5:48 pm (broadband, Dial up, Technology) (, , , )

I read an interesting article today in response to another controversial article about the “death of email”. I find it humorous that the poor woman who was nearly persecuted for her article, never said email was dying, just losing popularity and prominence. I guess there’s still some dispute on that idea. But I disgress.

I think it’s interesting that no matter how wonderful and revolutionizing a new technological advancement is, four groups of people emerge. *Note: Sometimes this does not happen because this advancement dies off before adoption by the majority takes place.

1. There’s a small group of activists who are overly excited about how wonderful and convenient this new *fill in the blank* is, how it will dramatically change how we communicate/entertain ourselves/do business/whatever else you can think of! And before you know it, <normal device that is working perfectly fine right now> will be completely replaced by this new *fill in the blank*!!!

2. There is a larger group of people who are interested, skeptical, briefly fascinated, or bored who try this New Big Thing and make up their mind about it. And, regardless of whether they use it or not, still use the old way or the other way of doing things for some time. The adoption rate by this group is usually the deciding factor of whether this technological development will become commonplace.

3. There is an equally large (usually) group of people who know very little about this so called New Big Thing that everyone who’s anyone is using and don’t really care about it, and wait to adopt the trend when the hype (and often the price) goes down. They adopt this technological advancement after several years when all the kinks have been ironed out, and when they discover this is a more efficient method of doing what they do.

4. There is a small group of people who are utterly clueless and will continue using their “extremely out of date and oh-so-not popular” method of doing things and will be perfectly content with it. This group only adopts the thing when their technologically advanced friends or relatives coerce them into updating or their local provider no longer offers the old way.

Nuff said. This happened for cars, telephones, and tv’s and is still happening to today with broadband Internet services, smartphones, blue-ray and facebook.

Because of group 3, and especially 4, there are still people using rotary phones, dial-up, and hand-written letters.

If it wasn’t for group 2, and especially 1, we wouldn’t know about some great conveniences that have truly improved our lives.

The truth is, the new big thing has its place for the people who like new things and need the change. But there will always be room for the good old days and the traditional forms of transportation, communication, education, and entertainmentation… *ahem* I mean… (hehe!)

I still remember in middle school, the first time that my little world was shattered by a Group 1 futuristic hopeful who told me that telephones would soon no longer be used anymore. But by now these future-thinkers don’t phase me. So lets not get our undies in a bundle! Email isn’t going anywhere! Just like radio, newspapers, dial-up, and telephones. They still have a purpose to serve.

So… what group are you in?

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Broadband Rollout is Coming… on the Government’s Horse and Buggy

October 14, 2009 at 2:16 pm (broadband, Dial up, DSL, satellite, Technology) (, , , )

If you heard about the government stimulus package that plans to spend over 7 billion to get broadband in rural areas, don’t get too excited. This is the government we’re talking about afterall.

Here’s a few things we need to keep in mind.

  1. The current halt on afforable broadband service to rural areas is due to lack of interest for companies and for customers. Basically, it costs way too much money to get broadband way out to the boonies when not everyone wants to pay for it even if they did!
  2. Anytime the government hands out money, it has to jump so many hurdles and run through so much legislation that by the time they get around to it, we could probably have done it faster on our own with a big garage sale! Ok, ok… slight exaggeration. Anyway.
  3. There are a lot of big companies involved that will all be lobbying for their interests, and a lot of them are more concerned about their pockets than a few rural farmers waving their arms for a broadband bailout.

Here’s some of the things we dial-up users in the sticks have to look forward to:Horse_and_buggy_1910

 

*crickets chirp*

 

So anyway… The FCC has been given until February to  (get this!) define “broadband” so the government can properly dole out the funds. Yes February. As in next year. If you can’t guess, it’s going to take at least several years for this promised broadband to reach your rural little computer.

Why do we need to define broadband? Well because all these “high-speed” companies are giving customers such low-quality service that it’s hardly fast enough to be considered fast in today’s age. Check this out:

*Satellite services can drop your connection speed to that equivalent to dial-up as a penalty for using the service excessively.

*Wireless can become so overcrowded with users that it is actually slower and more unreliable than dial-up.

*Many “low-cost” DSL plans have connection speeds that are no more than 10 times faster than dial-up (keep in mind that advertised speeds are not guaranteed actual speeds).

You might as well just stay with dial-up at that rate! Oh and get this!

*Our fastest connection speeds here in the U.S. is much slower than the normal connection speed in other countries. So much for being an advanced country!

So now the FCC is asking some of these Internet services providers to help them decide how fast broadband should be (or how else to determine what makes broadband what it is–long story), and phone companies like AT&T are trying their hardest to keep the standards low. They want broadband to be defined as being able to achieve basic tasks (like web page loading) and not even including video streaming and gaming capabilites!

Guess what? That, my friends, is dial-up. And we already have that. Yes, this is going to take a while. Looks like I’m going to keep going to the library to get videos… But I’m ok with that. I never had my hopes up from day one anyway. :-)

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To Myrtle Beach and Back

October 5, 2009 at 2:48 pm (broadband, Dial up, Internet surfing) (, , )

I’m back from vacation! *sigh* It’s ok–I wouldn’t want to be on vacation forever, and it’s nice to sleep in my own bed, but Ohio in October is shockingly cold after a week at Myrtle Beach!

Last week I attended a small wedding with the setting sun lighting the couple’s excited faces and the waves washing over their feet. It was beautiful! Here’s a few fun facts if you are considering having a beach wedding:

Pros:

  • Gorgeous free scenery
  • No flowers, music, decorations and big, long, poofy dress to pay for (at least, I wouldn’t recommend a such a dress)
  • Friends and family who can afford to come love it!
  • Honeymoon is within walking distance! Woot! :-D

Cons

  • Friends and family may not come because of expenses or schedules.
  • Said persons will probably complain, whine, grumble, and fume both behind you back and to your face that they couldn’t see you get married.
  • You either don’t get to wear that big poofy dress, or you’ll get it very wet and/or dirty.

Hmm.. I think that’s it. In other thoughts, Aunt Jemima and Mrs. Butterworth must make a killing in Myrtle Beach, because there is a pancake house on every block down there! And don’t get me started on the Bargain Beachwear stores. Large illuminated pastel buildings screaming deals exactly the same as the 20 other stores within 5 miles quickly lose their validity. The beach was nice, but I’m probably not going back any time soon.

Our hotel was decent and not too expensive, so that was a relief. We had a nice veiw of the ocean! I have never seen the ocean at night, and let me tell you, that is spectacular! Like most hotels these days, we had free wireless Internet services. I took my laptop, but I barely used it. Ever feel that itch in your fingers when you finally have broadband access right there but you can’t think of a website you wanna go to? I definitely felt that. It’s a dial-up thing, so some of you might not understand. Hehe!

Well, I’ll be catching up on news and info soon and keeping you informed on all things dialup and Internet–or at least my opinion. ;-) Have a great day!

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Attention All Dialup Users!!! Facebook is Now Possible!

September 22, 2009 at 12:11 pm (Dial up) (, , , )

It’s finally available to all Facebook users… Facebook Lite! It’s a basic version of the popular social networking site for people who just need the basics–like me, and have dial-up at home… like me!

My mom was recently coerced into following the masses and getting a facebook account. I remember only a few years ago when facebook was only for college students. So you can imagine the thoughts in my head when old church ladies and friends of my parents who I haven’t talked to in 15 years are requesting me as a friend on facebook! I digress.

Trying to show my mom how facebook works is difficult enough, but throw our dial-up connection into the mix and we’re not getting anywhere. I told her to just give up, I’m sorry, you won’t be able to use it here. The hoards of java necessary to load just one page on facebook is simply ridiculous. There’s even a lag on some broadband Internet services! Why make such a heavy webpage in the first place? Nevertheless, they must be doing something right to be the top website second only to The Great Google.

And now, introducing Facebook Lite. It’s a VERY simple layout compared to Facebook. There is no apps, no silly quizzes, no bulging sidebars of suggestions, sponsors, highlights, etc. The profiles have no apps and addon’s of every imaginable obsession (does anyone else get a headache from all this stuff?!). I suppose those things are fun, when you are 10 and have way too much free time.

facebook

Facebook Lite has, in my opinion, all the basics that I would actually care about and none of the overwhelming pile of extras! Every profile has a profile picture with four tabs: wall, info, friends, and photos & video. The toolbar at the top has the “facebook” tab that shows the top stories feed for all your friends. Other tabs are profile, events, inbox, settings. The logout, notifications, and search bar options are all still available. What else do you need? You can add friends, send and check messages, see photos, see people’s latest posts and comments, update your status (you just write on your own wall and it shows up on Facebook as your status), and read notes.

There are two things that I have noticed, however they may already have been fixed as Facebook is still working on their new site. One video I played displayed sideways, but was upright on the regular site. I don’t know how it was posted or what caused this. Also, the lite.facebook.com kept crashing but would then display when I refreshed. I expect these issues to be resolved soon.

If you have dial-up, or just don’t like how confusing Facebook has become, try http://lite.facebook.com! …Now I have to go tell my mom! :-)

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Why We Don’t Need a Government Bailout for Broadband Internet Access

September 3, 2009 at 1:32 pm (broadband, Dial up) (, , , , )

In the past few posts, I’ve been talking about this idea of it being the government’s responsibility to pay for the cost of getting broadband access to “unserved and underserved” rural areas. The initial simplified look at this logic seems to make sense, but if you look at the truth behind the broadband stimulus argument, you will see that some over-generalizations have been made. Wrapping up, here is my conclusion, and a summary of the false assumptions that have been made in the creation of this idea.

False Assumption #1: Many people (especially rural residents) don’t have Internet access.

True Statement: Many people don’t have affordable broadband Internet services in their homes. But most of them can get Internet access in one way or another. There are thousands of rural homes who use dial-up because that’s the most affordable option to them, and certain types of broadband is not available to them. Sure, dial-up has limited capabilities, but you can still read news and other educational resources, send and receive emails, and load the majority of webpages.

False Assumption #2: Since the Internet provides so many educational and business-related resources and outlets, providing broadband to more homes would increase education and business.

True Statement: That’s a nice thought, and maybe in a small degree that would be true. But business and education are not the primary uses for the Internet. Most people use the Internet for fun and personal interests. People with broadband have even more fun. With live audio/video streaming at a flawless rate, you can watch movies, play games, listen to the radio, chat live using webcams with friends and random strangers, and the list goes on.

When you have Internet access, you use it. When you have faster Internet access, you use it more—but don’t expect everyone to start being any more productive, smarter, or richer. How is this a pressing issue for the government (to the tune of over 7 billion dollars), considering what the majority of us are doing online?

False Assumption #3:The increasing use of the Internet for education and business justifies the government to grant billions of dollars to help make it available to everyone.

True Statement: Lets assume that everyone did use the Internet productivity, and that making it more available would boost the economy. Is it really the government’s duty to expand our educational and business resources? Let’s not pretend that education and business aren’t already in place! We are a capitalistic society, we’re supposed to do that for ourselves! Even if this stimulus plan did a world of good—and maybe ten years from now we’ll see that benefit—the government does not have a responsibility to pay for our Internet services.

Where is the government getting all this money anyway? Considering we are deeply (that’s an understatement!) in debt to multiple countries and our accumulated government debt balance grows by gigantic leaps and bounds, I’m afraid to ask!

This “lack of broadband” issue does not present some terrible crisis—people are just tired of dial-up or don’t want to spend a bunch of money for satellite. We aren’t dying or being threatened here! We are still farming, educating, conducting business, and communicating—even if some of us are still using books or have to go to the library to check our email. We’ll find ways to connect to the Internet and develop new ways of spreading broadband to rural areas on our own. Please. Leave the government out of this!

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The Truth Behind the Broadband Stimulus Argument

September 1, 2009 at 12:49 pm (broadband, Dial up, DSL) (, , , , )

In my last post, I discussed an article that proposed that the government has a duty to provide broadband Internet to rural areas. Here are the reasons leading up to this conclusion—but this time we’re looking at the whole picture. This information is based on my knowledge as a technician for an Internet provider and my extensive research on the subject.

More and more people are using the Internet. Yes, this is very true. In fact, the U.S. is nearly saturated with Internet services and one of the leading countries with broadband access. The growth of Internet usage just within the last five years is staggering, with many people signing up for more Internet access daily.

The Internet is becoming a larger venue for business and education. The majority of businesses have websites, and many of them take and ship orders online. Online college classes are still being taken with people getting degrees later in life. Private education for grade-school ages are offering online courses. The Internet provides a vast, no, gargantuan collection of educational information that was once contained only in books and libraries. Read my post about “necessities” that have been replaced by the Internet and technology. The Internet has, in a very short time-span, transformed our language, social habits, culture, and communication. Its actually kind of overwhelming to think about. And the advancements and changes not slowing down one bit!

People who do not have access to the Internet lack the ability to gain from these advancements. Quite true! It would be foolish to deny this. But how many people truly have NO access to the Internet? There are MANY ways to access the Internet:

  • Home/relative/friend’s house

  • School/Work

  • Library/Coffee shops/other Public areas

  • Cell phones/any area with a wireless hotspot

  • ANY home/building with a land line phone (dial-up)

  • ANY home/building with a clear view of the Southern sky (satellite)

Granted, there are some people who have many more options than others. I am not denying that there are “underserved” U.S. residents. I am saying that it would be foolish to assume that just because many people can’t get common types of broadband in their home doesn’t mean that a) they have no access to the Internet elsewhere, or that b) they don’t have any form of Internet access in their home, or that c) people without Internet access in their homes must have it in their homes in order to become educated and conduct business.

Most people do have some form of Internet access even if it isn’t broadband or isn’t provided directly to their home. Those that have no access any type of Internet services whatsoever are a very small percentage of U.S. residents. The number of businesses in this situation is even smaller.

Many Internet and phone companies have essentially given up on being able to afford providing broadband to certain areas. There are some places, like my house, where they don’t bother to install cable or DSL lines for obvious reasons.

  1. The cost of installing the equipment necessary to provide these services to scattered rural homes would be enormous.
  2. The income from rural customers willing to order the service would never pay the costs of installation.

  3. Even if they did bother to run all these lines, etc., we are too far away from the source of the digital provider for a strong enough signal to reach our house.

These companies are not being petty losers. It’s just really not within reason. There are many more complications that would take more time to explain (and perhaps I will post about  it later). The stimulus money will help, but it’s not going to solve our problems alone. We’re going to need even more money–and probably several years if we really want to provide affordable broadband to all the rural and low-income areas. There’s a long road ahead of this ambitious venture.

In the next few days I’d like to wrap up this discussion. Stay tuned! And feel free to comment! I’d love to hear from you!

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Review Friday: Kingdom of Loathing

August 21, 2009 at 1:32 pm (Dial up, product review) (, , )

I recently came up with the idea to write reviews on Friday, hence the title. I think that Friday is the great day to take it easy and talk about something fun/useful/interesting for people with dial-up Internet services. I especially enjoy writing about the little known facts, so hopefully my reviews will be the first time you’ve heard of these!

So…on to my review for today:An adventurer is you!

If you like playing computer games, you have probably discovered the plethora of online games for every taste and interest. One popular genre is RPG’s, or role playing games. You come up with a fantasy name for yourself and embark on some great adventure–slaying dragons, racing, shooting enemies, farming, or running your own restaurant.

One such RPG that recently caught my attention is Kingdom of Loathing (KoL). It’s not new, it was actually created in 2003 by Zack Johnson and Josh Nite. They have continually been upgrading and adding changes to the game, so it remains an open beta. (Thank wiki!)

So how do you play? First, you create your name and avatar. You choose your strengths and attributes, and there’s a simple tutorial to follow to get sDisco Bandit (character class-female)tarted. The currency is meat, you gain experience by fighting monsters, and you gain strength from food and booze (but not too much!). To join the chat room, you must agree to the Policies of Loathing and sign the oath. Basically, it’s a “Princess Bride” world in stick figure drawings.

The names of places and characters, the storyline, etc., are satirical references to popular culture, plays on words, and parodies, so it’s great for language lovers like me. And sarcastic people. …like me! :-P

A Gigantic Superfluous Fountain

The webpage itself is plain and simply built. As far as I’ve seen there’s isn’t any animation. On the other hand, the layout is easy to play and no problem for dial-up users. There is no advertising or subscription fee–the funding all comes from donations and merchandise.

The storyline is slow-moving at first, but once you get started and learn the ropes, is it easier to get into it. The sarcasm and wit definitely is the highlight and provided the most entertainment.

If you like role playing games, I think you’ll appreciate this game, especially if you’re the type of person who likes to stop and read the story as you go. Try it for yourself! www.kingdomofloathing.com

*Note, there is some language, references to drinking, and violence that may not be suitable for younger audiences.

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Using Dial-up for Travel

July 24, 2009 at 2:16 pm (Dial up) (, , , , , )

The Internet has increasingly become a necessity for work, entertainment and education, to name a few. Many workplaces have broadband connections and people are switching to broadband at home every day.

While broadband connections are convenient for fast access at home, many people who travel for work, retreat to summer homes, or go on vacations will have to pay for another internet service while they are away, or do without. The latter option is become more difficult as the demands for internet access increase.

There is a simple solution for these situations—dial-up Internet. Although dial-up has lost popularity to it’s broadband rivals, it is still useful (and sometimes the only option) for travel and vacation. There are many reasons why:

  • Dial-up is quick and easy to set up—just plug in one phone cord and create a dial-up connection on the computer.

  • Dial-up is also easily moved, since it works on any land line phone, as long as the username and password is correct.

  • There are thousands of access numbers available throughout the US, making dial-up one of the most broadly available Internet services.

If you decide to start using dial-up for travel, you must first choose the best ISP. Many dial-up providers do not have contracts or term commitments, which means you can quickly sign up and then cancel after a vacation or business trip. If you take this option, be sure you understand the cancellation process to avoid a misunderstand or a billing dispute when you get back from vacation.

Some dial-up providers offer a limited hours package for a few dollars or for free. If you travel often, this would be helpful alternative to signing up and canceling multiple times a year. Furthermore, if you keep the service year-round, you will have a back up Internet service you can use at home in the event of an issue with your broadband connection. Having a back-up is convenient and provides a useful troubleshooting tool. If you take this option, ask your ISP what the consequence would be if you go over your limited number of hours per month. Some companies will not allow you to connect after your limit, and others will charge heavy fees for usage over that limit.

Another important factor to consider is the access numbers. If you need dial-up for your vacation home or travel frequently to one or several locations, you can ask your ISP how many access numbers they have for that area. You must also check with the phone company where you will be using the dial-up to be sure the access number(s) will be local. Your ISP has no way of guaranteeing this for you, so be careful not to run up your phone bill because you forgot to check the access number.

Once you find the company that suits your needs, and you understand your terms of service and availability, you will have a stress-free, reliable, and convenient Internet connection away from home without paying a fortune for two services. You won’t have to worry about missing an important news event or email while on vacation again!

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Satellite vs. Dial-up Internet

July 21, 2009 at 1:17 pm (Dial up, satellite) (, , , , , , )

The increasing popularity of and demand for broadband Internet propels the goal of providing it to the entire U.S. Many rural homes across the country, however, have little or no access to DSL and cable. Both of these popular broadband services require costly upgrades or wiring and is not considered worthwhile for many rural homes—some for now, others, maybe always. Until then, two types of Internet are often available for these areas: dial-up and satellite.

Dial-up Internet varies greatly from satellite Internet. One obvious difference, and often the deciding factor for many, is the price. The total monthly cost of dial-up is between 10-20 dollars a month and usually the set up is free—assuming you have a dial-up modem and a local access number. Satellite internet, on the other hand, has a monthly fee of 40-350 dollars a month (depending on the speed/download allowance you want). The total cost includes the price of leasing or buying the equipment (dish, router, etc.), installation, and other fees, such as repair plans, technical support, or contract fees. Even if you get the cheapest, slowest plan, you will have to pay at least $100 up front to get started.

Even a far stretch of the possible expenses you’ll have with dial-up will not come near the price of satellite. A dial-up modem, for example, is typically between 20 and 50 dollars, but is usually already installed on the computer. If you don’t have a land line phone service, you can consider that into your monthly costs.

Another difference in these Internet services is the connection speed. Satellite is many times faster than dial-up, which is the only reason people are willing to pay so much more. Dial-up can usually not be connected constantly, and downloads are painfully slow. However, many satellite plans have download limits and your connection can be restricted to dial-up speeds as a penalty for exceeding those limits.

Connectivity can be an issue for both satellite and dial-up. Dial-up can have trouble connecting if the phone lines to your house are old or a considerable distance from the phone company’s central office. Static or other line noise can cause slow connections and frequent disconnects. Since satellite signals from the sky, inclement weather can cause disrupted or slow connectivity, which can be a problem for areas with frequent stormy weather. You can only get satellite if you own your home (renters must have permission to install a dish) and have a clear view of the southern sky. Just like with cell phones, you may not be able to get a good connection with satellite if you live in a wooded or mountainous area.

Getting started with dial-up is often as simple as a phone call and a configuration of settings on the computer, unless you order a disk to set up software. Dial-up can be set up on multiple computers and just needs a phone cord plugged into the back to get started. This means you can use dial-up while you’re traveling or on vacation. Setting up satellite could take several weeks with ordering, shipping and installing equipment. The time and cost of installing equipment and setting up the connection on satellite is clearly greater than dial-up.

Satellite Internet is a viable option if you require a broadband connection for your needs and can’t get DSL or cable, providing the pre-qualifications are met and no major weather obstructions occur too frequently. Dial-up Internet is a easy and affordable option for you if you don’t spend much time online and don’t want to bothered with fees and contracts, providing you have quality land lines and a working dial-up modem.

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Dial-up vs. DSL

July 10, 2009 at 12:45 pm (Dial up, DSL) (, , , , , , , )

If you are interested in switching to DSL Internet services, you may be curious to know what DSL is all about and how it compares to dial-up. For the purpose of this comparison, we will assume that by DSL, we are talking about ADSL, the typical DSL connection available that uses a phone line to connect. Here are a few of the basics.

For starters, dial-up and DSL both connect using your land line phone line. Simply put, a dial-up modem converts the analog communication your phone line uses into digital information needed for your computer. The same thing happens on your phone company’s end. Their modem converts the from digital to analog so it can travel on the phone lines. DSL, on the other hand, uses the same wires that your analog phone line used and bypasses the digital-analog-digital conversion dial-up must use.

Therefore, DSL transmits information much faster than dial-up, and works at a higher frequency (higher than can be detected by the human ear), and by doing so, it does not effect the analog communication (phone conversations, etc.) on those same lines.

The most obvious difference, other than the speed, is the price. The total monthly cost of dial-up is between 10 and 20 dollars a month with little or no additional fees including set up or equipment fees. DSL has a monthly fee somewhere between 20-100 dollars a month (based on speed desired and location), not including the price of equipment, installation, and other fees such as repair plans, technical support, or contract fees.

Most computers have a dial-up modem already installed on the computer, so there aren’t typically many equipment costs associated with dial-up. Other than a land line and a phone cord, that is the extent of the “equipment” and “installation” costs for dial-up.

Availability and transportability are two categories where dial-up exceeds DSL. Connecting to the internet with most dial-up services is available to any computer that has a land line phone. It is not confined to the home where the DSL modem is installed.

DSL is only available in very limited areas. DSL is rarely available in rural areas because they are too far from the phone company’s central office. The choices of connection speeds on DSL could cut in half based solely on your locations. Often, a few hundred feet means the difference of DSL or no DSL for suburban homes.

DSL and dial-up can be provided both by your phone company or through your phone company. While you can set up nearly any dial-up service with any analog phone service, DSL is usually only available with your phone company or a DSL company that partners with your phone company.

Many phone companies will not let any other DSL company use their phone lines, so this could even further limit or prevent you from getting DSL. If they do, further problems can occur in the process of communication during the activation period and the resolving of technical issues. Even with no complications, DSL usually takes at least several days to set up.

Dial-up has a very simple set up procedure that takes about half an hour or less (unless you are mailed a setup CD, which is often not necessary). Since it is so simple to set up, you can easily move the connection, set up multiple connections, and take your service with you when you travel or move. Rarely does your phone company need to be involved or even notified, other than to make sure your access number is a local call.

DSL is a fast, dedicated connection for those who require it for gaming, downloading, and streaming of videos, etc. Dial-up excels in price, availability, and simplicity for people who need to save money or don’t have many other options.

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