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.
Dial up internet services are about the same connection speed regardless of which company is providing the service. Connections typically range from 20-50 kbps (kilobits per second) as a result of 1) the quality of the phone line, 2) the distance of the phone line source and the house, and 3) the type/quality of the dial up modem.
Therefore, choosing a dial up provider is important not because one is faster than another, but because the customer service, payment methods, terms of service, and other important features vary greatly from one company to another. Here are ten important factors to consider:
Reviews. Check the website and other sites that review the ISP. What do current customers say about this company? Keep in mind that solitary negative (especially heated and derogatory) reviews could be an isolated situation that bears no relevance to the average user.
Rankings and promotions. There are many websites who categorize internet services based on their service quality of various dialup providers. Search for companies that are in the top five of several ISP comparison websites. Also, these sites will often link to the ISP’s current promotion specials.
Access numbers. A data transfer number, or an access number is what the modem uses to connect to the internet. Most ISP’s have a large variety of access numbers to choose from, but just like telephone numbers, many of those would be long distance and your phone service would be charged per minute of online time. The telephone company can verify whether or not an access number would incur a toll charge.
Monthly/yearly prices. Be wary of hidden fees, contracts, or price changes after a certain amount of time. For long-term customers, yearly payment plans are sometimes available at a discount. Some dial up companies offer a great starting rate but become much more expensive after 1 to 5 months, or they do not provide convenient features or quality customer service that more expensive plans offer. Saving money is important, but a frustrating, low-quality service is not even worth their cheap rates.
Payment types. Customers preferring to pay by check or money order need to check whether those payment forms are available, as some ISP’s take only credit cards. Most companies, however, accept debit cards, and therefore may be a sufficient substitute to paying by check.
Terms of service. Some of the legal jargon will rarely apply to the average user, but many companies list possible additional charges, grounds for termination or limitation of services, or expresses the right to monitor their customer surfing habits. Being well aware of these issues can aid in making the best decision and create a clear understanding of the rights and limitations the company allows. Signing up for an ISP indicates the consumer agrees to the Terms of Service, regardless of whether they have been read.
Software requirements. Some ISP’s require that you use their dial-in software, sometimes even their browser and email client to use their service. While fewer clicks and matching layout can be appealing to those who are new to the computer and Internet, proprietary software from an ISP company is often bombarded with advertising. Also, these memory-consuming programs can slow or corrupt the computer even long after the service has been cancelled. Set up software is simply unnecessary. Accelerators and internet call waiting programs, however, are necessary to download if you choose to add such features. They can be very helpful and convenient, but sometimes conflict with other software already installed on the computer or require additional phone and modem features.
Customer Service. What are the hours of operation? Are there long hold times or complicated phone menus? Where are the calls actually directed? In order to save money, many dialup providers outsource their call centers. The personnel usually have poor training, limited and scripted information, poor communication skills, and strong accents that are difficult to understand.
Technical support. Many of the same questions from above apply here as well. Keep in mind that some companies charge for tech support calls. The fee could be per call or even per minute.
Cancellations. What is the process and requirements to terminate the service? Is there a contract or cancellation fee? Is there a satisfaction guarantee? Don’t sign up for any service until these questions are clearly answered and understood.
There are other factors that affect any prospective customer’s decision based on what options are available, what need the ISP will meet, and what funds are available. These questions and facts cover many of the important factors of a satisfactory service.