Although dial-up Internet services were quite popular a few decades ago, some believe dial-up has become thing of the past. However, there are still many thousands who use dial-up as their primary home Internet connection today. Every day, there are people considering starting a new dial-up account, either to save money or because no other affordable option is available. Here’s an in-depth look at what dial-up should be capable of and some of the factors that effect a dial-up connection speed.
Let’s start with basic web-surfing. How long is it going to take to load a web page on dial-up? Although dial-up and dial-up modems have only improved in quality, websites as a whole have greatly increased their use of multimedia layouts, including video and audio features. This has resulted in dial-up Internet services loading webpages more slowly overall than they did even five years ago.
However, there are also ways that technology has made webpages easier to load using compression technology, etc. There are ISP’s, software programs, and even certain browsers offer tools that can effectually speed your browsing time. Some websites load parts of their page (like backgrounds and images) separately so that you don’t have to wait for the whole page to load before you can begin using it. Other sites, such as gmail.com, allow you to load the site in a simpler layout for faster loading on dial-up. All of these factors affect your loading time. Here are a few examples to give you an estimate for some familiar pages :
Google.com has a very simple layout with mostly white space and very few images. On a dial up connection speed, this page should load in about 5-7 seconds.
Yahoo.com, even with its busy home page loads in a user-friendly 35-45 seconds on dial-up.
CNN.com has many columns, headings, and images. Using a dial up connection, the home page should load in about 3 minutes.
These times are estimated based on a 56K dial up connection, with the consideration that no one ever connects at 56 kbps. Even the best connection will establish at about 50 kbps and often closer to 48, due to technology and legal restrictions. There are other several factors that can effect your connection speed. If you have an older modem or a poor phone connection, you’re actual speed could be closer to 28 kbps or less. You will notice the difference much more on downloads than on loading webpages.
How fast are downloads on dial-up? Small downloads are usually not a problem. A song, for example, is typically about 3 MB in a compressed format, which is what MP3 players and cellphones use. If you download a 3 MB file on a 56K dial up connection, it take about 8-10 minutes, or on a 28K connection, 15 or 20 minutes.
The latest version of Firefox, 3.5, is 7.6 MB, which would download in just over 20 minutes on a 56K connection, or about 45 minutes on a 28K connection. It is possible that your connection speed changes while you’re connected. Intermittent noises on the phone line can slow your connection speed or even cause it to drop. If you already have a slower connection due to poor phone lines (because you live some distance from the phone company’s central office, or you have aged phone lines with static or humming), you may need to make several attempts to download programs that are longer than 2 hours.
Suppose you want to download a large program, like an anti-virus program. The latest version the free AVG 8.5 is 63.1 MB. On a 56K dial-up connection, that would take over 3 hours, or nearly 6 hours on a 28K connection. Since most ISP’s have a maximum 4 hour disconnect, you will probably not be able to download anything larger than 40 MB on a 28 kbps connection. This same file would download in about a half hour on DSL. If you have dial-up and require an occasional large download, go to your local library or coffee shop with free wireless and download the file to a disk or flash drive. Then install it on your home computer when you get home.
Dial-up is not for everyone. Those who require fast connections for real time streaming that is necessary for watching videos and playing online games should look for a broadband connection. For those who just want to surf web pages, play small flash games, check email, and do some online banking, dial up will be sufficient. It might be slower, but unless you plan on being online all the time, the money you’ll save will be worth the wait.
As broadband spreads further into the workplace and home, the dial up market declines. Broadband offers many conveniences like faster downloads, split-second web-surfing, and flawless video and audio streaming. Is dial up useless and obsolete? I don’t think so. Dial is still convenient, necessary and worthwhile. There are many reasons why dial isn’t going away any time soon.
Many people still need dial-up. In the larger cities and other more populated areas where WiFi, FiOS, and cable are becoming prevalent, it doesn’t seem possible that many thousands of U.S. citizens have very little or no access to any broadband internet—but it’s true. And the majority of those people have the choice between a very expensive and potentially unreliable satellite and slow, but cheap dialup. Unless these people are using their home internet for business purposes, many of them will not find satellite to be worth the money, or cannot afford it at all.
Dial up is simple to set up. Setting up a dial up connection takes a matter of minutes. All you need is a username, password, and a local access number. You can set it up on any computer that has a dial up modem, plug in a phone cord from any analog landline, and you’re connected. Finding a dial up provider is easy, and most provide a cheap, hassle-free service, unlike many broadband services that require contracts, shipping of expensive equipment, and complicated set up processes.
Some people don’t need all the bells and whistles. Sure, it’s slow and you can’t watch YouTube videos, but dial up is perfectly fine for checking email and simple banking transactions. These are probably the top two uses for dial up internet services at home, especially among the older generation. Many of these people grew up with dial up and simply don’t want to change. And for the price dial up is offered, it makes an appealing offer.
Broadband is available at work. With this option, some people don’t need the internet very much at home after they’ve had internet access all day at work. There’s no sense in paying a fortune for fast Internet at home only to be use for an hour or less a day, and dial up is a nice back up solution for occasional home uses.
The “problems” with dialup can be resolved. Some dial up providers and other companies online offer solutions for slow speeds and tying up the phone line, two big complaints about dial up. With features like accelerators and internet call waiting, it is possible to be satisfied with dial up.
Dial up travels. As mentioned earlier, set up is easy, which means you can take dial up with you. If you’re at a friend’s house, a vacation home, business trip, or hotel, you can easily create a dial up connection, hook up your computer to a phone line and connect right away. With all the wires, routers, and modems required for broadband Internet, even moving to the other end of the room in your house can be a challenge. With the service being provisioned directly to your home, your connection is certainly not available away from home! Installation and sometimes ordering broadband Internet service must often start over in the event of moving or seasonal relocation.
Dial up internet may not be for everyone and it does have limitations. For some people, broadband is simply the only solution for their needs. Someday broadband internet will probably be much more prevalent and hopefully a little less expensive. Until that day comes, dial will continue to meet the needs of millions around the world.
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.