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What is dial-up internet?

Dial-up internet works by taking over the signal of a pre-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, likely thanks to the its high availability and relatively low price. If availability and price are also your concerns when shopping for internet, use Allconnect® to find low-cost internet options for your home.

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Pros and cons 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 or fiber-optic lines.
  • Price. Dial-up internet service is typically a good bit cheaper than broadband internet. However, while dial-up is relatively cheap, when you consider price to speed ratios—that is, what you pay per Mbps—dial-up isn’t that cheap. In fact, many 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, or pretend to use your IP address, for criminal activity. Also, unlike broadband internet, dial-up isn’t “always on,” meaning you don’t have to worry about anyone hacking your connection when you’re not logged in.
  • Speed. Dial-up internet speeds top out at about 56 Kbps, which is significantly lower than speeds you’ll get with DSL, cable, fiber or even satellite internet. In comparison, the Federal Communications Commission defines broadband as internet with speeds of at least 25 Mbps download and 3 Mbps upload.
  • Setup. While you only need a phone line to get access to dial-up internet, you’ll probably need a special modem and other equipment to actually 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 internet 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?

Some of the most popular internet providers include:

    • NetZero
    • AOL
    • EarthLink
      • People PC
      • Turbo USA
      • Juno

Each dial-up internet provider varies, but you can likely get a cheap internet plan from any of them. And if you’re looking for other cheap internet options, use Allconnect to see what’s available in your area.

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Common questions about 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.

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.

Learn more about other internet types to find the best one for your home.

Last updated 9/11/18.

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