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Remember dial-up — that weird, hollow, echoing sound that defined your childhood? For most of us, this way of connecting to the internet quickly became a relic once high-speed broadband spread across the country.
And with all the talk of affordable gigabit-speed internet coming to our homes soon — if it hasn’t already — we thought it’d be interesting to explore what’s happening on the other, slower side of the spectrum.
So, we dug into some statistics about good ‘ole dial-up internet, and we found that it’s still far more relevant than we ever would’ve imagined. Ready your surprised face.
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Fast stats from the slower side of the internet
According to a 2015 study published by the Pew Research Center, 3% of the entire United States still connects to the internet via a dial-up connection. (Somehow, that number actually went up from 2013 to 2015, the last year Pew measured dial-up adoption.)
At the time, that was around 9.6 million Americans. That number has dropped all the way down to 0.3%, according to 2017 data reported by Statista. That comes out to just under one million people.
All those dial-up connections essentially mean that those one million people still experience the web like it’s 1995, with speeds topping out around 56 Kbps. For comparison, the average U.S. broadband speed is 134 Mbps per second – more than 2,000x faster than dial-up.
That means no streaming, no online gaming and no video calls. Dial-up internet users are limited to the most basic online functions like checking email, browsing Facebook or reading articles — all at a snail’s pace.
In 2017, Alabama had the highest percentage of homes with a dial-up connection by far, with a full 4% of residents relying on it. Nevertheless, every state but Delaware relies on dial-up to some degree.
Why (and where) people use dial-up
Even with the nostalgia factor, dial-up internet probably wouldn’t be the first choice for most internet users. In some rural areas, though, the only options are dial-up and DSL — another connection type that utilizes telephone lines to connect to the internet.
Ease and availability
If you already have a traditional phone line hooked up in your home, then you can quickly have dial-up Internet access as well, in no time at all. Just have a dial-up Internet service provider make the connection – and purchase a modem to translate the signal – and you’ll be on your way.
As long as you’re not trying to stream HD video or load every high-resolution picture a photographer has ever taken, then dial-up internet can likely take care of all your web-browsing internet speed requirements. Once you’re online, you can expect a consistent connection.
Dial-up is most definitely not the fastest horse in the internet race. But, if you’re not getting online that often – and you’re mostly just checking email or lightly Googling things when you are – then you’ll be just fine. Because there’s no need for a racehorse when a workhorse can get the job done just as well.
Dial-up is by far the cheapest way to connect to the internet. Most plans cost around $10/mo., and NetZero and Juno even offer free access for up to 10 hours each month. Compared to the average $60/mo. that Americans pay for broadband, dial-up actually provides incredible value.
20% of current dial-up users said nothing would ever get them to change their connection type.
When the Pew Center researchers asked dial-up subscribers in 2009 what it would take for them to switch to a broadband Internet connection at home, they had a variety of answers. 35% said the price would have to fall, 17% said it would have to become available where they live, and a surprising 20% said nothing would ever get them to change. (Maybe they just love the sound of dial-up too much to ever let it go.)
Interestingly enough, there was no notable difference related to where dial-up users lived. Rural residents, city dwellers, and suburbanites are all equally likely to be dial-up home internet users. And according to a recent Pew study, 10% of American adults don’t use the internet at all.
But in today’s age of information, that’s an odd choice given how quickly the world changes, and how quickly news can travel on it. So if you’d like to change your current provider or have a new internet connection set up in your home – dial-up, broadband or otherwise – then just let us know.
Our internet experts can help you choose the best internet service provider for your home’s needs – all for free – even if you’ve grown to love a slower slice of life.