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Looking for dial-up internet service providers?

Learn more about dial-up internet and explore your internet options.

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How does dial-up internet work?

Dial-up internet works by taking over the signal of an existing phone line and changing it from communicating voice to communicating data. The amount of data that dial-up internet can transfer via the phone line is very limited, which results in low speeds that do not qualify as broadband.

In spite of dial-up internet’s slow speeds, millions of people still use dial-up, thanks to its high availability and relatively low price. If availability and price are also your concerns when shopping for internet, find low-cost internet options for your home.

Pros and cons of dial-up internet

Dial-up internet is cheap and readily available, but is it any good? Here are the advantages and disadvantages of dial-up internet.

Advantages of dial-up internet

  • Availability – Like DSL internet, dial-up internet uses your phone line for service. Since most homes have access to an established phone line, dial-up internet is available in many areas, even those that do not have access to cable internet or fiber-optic lines.
  • Price – The monthly price of dial-up internet service is typically cheaper than broadband internet. However, when you consider price to speed ratios — that is, cost you pay per Mbps —  dial-up plans are considerably more expensive based on what you’re getting versus what you pay for.
  • Security – Dial-up uses a different IP address each time you log on, which makes it virtually impossible for hackers to spoof (pretend to use your IP address) for criminal activity. Also, unlike broadband internet, a dial-up connection isn’t “always on,” meaning you don’t have to worry about anyone hacking your connection type when you’re not logged in.

Disadvantages of dial-up internet

  • Speed – Dial-up internet speeds top out at about 56 Kbps, which is significantly lower than speeds you’ll get with DSL, cable internet, fiber or even satellite internet. In comparison, the FCC defines broadband as internet with speeds of at least 25 Mbps download and 3 Mbps upload.
  • Setup – You only need a phone line to get access to dial-up internet, but you’ll probably need a special dial-up internet modem and other equipment to use the service, which may be hard to find.
  • Load timeouts – Many webpages are designed to load over a broadband internet connection. If dial-up speed can’t keep up, the page might timeout and you won’t have full access to it.
  • Phone line use – Dial-up ties up your phone line, preventing you from sending or receiving calls when you’re online.

Is dial-up internet service still available?

Yes, and with a phone line and the right equipment, you can likely get dial-up internet in your area. It’s a great option for those living in rural areas without access to cable or fiber internet and do not want satellite internet.

What are some dial-up internet providers?

Free dial-up internet access is available through some of the most popular dial-up internet providers including:

Looking for faster speeds? Some dial-up internet providers, such as NetZero, offer accelerated dial-up speeds up to five times faster than basic dial-up internet. If you’re looking for other cheap internet options, click “View internet plans” below to see what’s available in your area.

Dial-up internet frequently asked questions

Can I send or receive phone calls with dial-up internet?

Not when you’re logged in. Dial-up internet uses the phone line while you’re online, preventing you from sending or receiving phone calls. You can, however, use your phone when not using your internet service.

Both transmit data via phone lines, but DSL uses a Digital Subscriber Line, which allows for more data to flow and doesn’t tie up the phone line. DSL does share many of the benefits of dial-up internet, such as availability and price.

Dial-up internet can offer speeds up to around 56 kilobits per second (Kbps). Most internet providers measure speed by Megabits per second (Mbps), which are equivalent to 1,000 Kbps. 56 Kbps equals 0.056 Mbps, which is many times slower than speeds you’ll get with other types of internet.

Not likely. The speeds you get with dial-up internet aren’t fast enough for an enjoyable experience. A dial-up connection can, however, give you enough speed to download music as long as you download songs one at a time.

No. While there are a few ways to get internet without a phone line, dial-up internet is not one of them. A phone line is required to have access to dial-up internet.

That’s the sound of your dial-up modem connecting with the network. The first few sounds you hear are the dial tone and dialing. Once your modem makes a connection, the remaining sounds you hear are your modem communicating with the network to determine connection quality and speeds.

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Lisa Iscrupe

Written by:

Lisa Iscrupe

Writer, Broadband & Data Content

Lisa uses years of experience in sales and customer service for internet-TV providers to inform her writing on broadband. Her work has been referenced by CNN and other national sources. … Read more