Dial-Up Internet Access

Image Caption: Phone connector with female socket, used for dial-up Internet access. Credit: Shaddack/Wikipedia

Dial-up access is a connection to the Internet using telephone company lines to connect to an Internet Service Provider (ISP). The user connects to an internal or external modem that decodes the data and displays it onto the computer, laptop, or similar device.

Often this choice of connection is used where other forms of connections are not available, such as in remote or rural areas. Otherwise dial-up would not be used and a company like Megapath would be able to offer users higher internet speeds. Others may use a dial-up connection for its very low connection cost, sometimes offered for free by some ISPs.

A dial-up connection will take time to establish a connection, sometimes several seconds or longer, and will go through a process called handshaking. This is when the computer is about to communicate with a foreign device, such as a modem, printer, or network server.

Dial-up service providers often have an auto-disconnect and limit the time a user can be connected to allow for the sharing of resources, often disconnecting users, requiring reconnection. In 2010 according to the FCC, 6 percent of Internet connections were a dial-up connection. However, in 2011, AOL added 200,000 new dial-up subscribers, notably as a result of the recession.

Social networking is limited on a dial-up connection. However, Facebook and Twitter now offer mobile editions of their sites which feature limited graphics and reduced functions, to allow them to work well over a dial-up connection.

Connection speed typically has a maximum of 56 kbps, but mostly 40 – 50 kbps is normal. In some instances speeds as low as 20 kbps are reported, such as hotel connections where a line is shared. The low data transfer rate can make it difficult for online gaming, and large files will take several minutes or even hours to download. An alternative for faster downloads is to compress files before transfer, but this action will sometimes lower the quality of the graphics that are being transferred.