Dial-up Internet Service

Written by Helen Glenn Court
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The traditional 56K modem dial-up Internet service of the late 20th century is a lumbering beast in the early 21st. The numbers make the point clearly enough. (A disclaimer is necessary. Data does not necessarily travel as fast as a line's nominal value indicates. How the hardware of the server and the computer are configured affect a line's potential.)

Dial-up Internet Service FAQ

That traditional residential modem on an analog copper telephone line transfers data at perhaps 30 kilobits per second. A DSL (digital subscriber line) connection is digital travel on an analog line and allows from 256 to 768 kilobits. A broadband cable connection is fiber optic and allows perhaps 2 to 4 megabits (the test I just ran on the connection I'm using right now reported 3.2 megabits).

Dial-up Internet service, then, is by far the slowest of today's options, the legendary turtle in the speed race. Its strong suit is its availability. If you have a telephone line, you can connect to the Internet. It may be long distance, the connection may be tenuous, but you can connect. For either a DSL or broadband connection, it's not that easy. You need to be within several miles of the nearest telephone switching station for DSL service, and the farther away you are, the weaker the connection. Cable, being fiber optic, is uniform--if it's available.

When I still had Earthlink dial-up Internet service (always a good choice nationwide), for example, I wasn't able to get DSL. My local telephone company said yes but Earthlink said no, because while DSL was theoretically possible, I was so far from the station that Earthlink couldn't guarantee the speeds it promised. I therefore waited a year and went broadband, once it became available in my zip code.


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