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Old Faithful: Dial-Up Network Connections

Dial-up networking (DUN) is still the most common form of Internet access used in America, although experts think that will change over the next few years. For now, DUN is just about the only Internet connection method that's available in every area, and that's what keeps it ticking along in the first place. Like the internal combustion engine, it's a technology that just never seems to go away—no matter how many disadvantages it offers.

Surf the Slow Lane

Dial-up networking uses a modem, a telephone line, and software to connect your computer to the Internet through an ISP. Here are the reasons so many people use DUN and an ISP to access the Internet:

  • You don't need special phone lines or high-tech gear to use DUN access.

  • It's relatively inexpensive; about $20 for an ISP, plus your usual phone line charge.

Here's why people are leaving DUN to move to cable modem or DSL service:

  • DUN is slo-o-o-o-w. Even if you have a 56Kbps modem, you will never get speeds that high.

  • You must dial in and establish a connection every time you want to get on the Net. Depending on the size of your ISP and the number of subscribers, you could get busy signals or bumped off-line during peak usage periods.

  • You simply can't get broadband content through a 56Kbps modem in any really usable format.

  • If you don't install a separate line for your DUN connection, your phone line is out of commission while you're online.

What's Ahead for DUN?

Many people stick with DUN because it's easy to do, uses their computers' existing equipment, and they aren't that concerned with high-speed access. As broadband content builds, and functions such as telephony, online film broadcasts, and so on become more common, the tried and true DUN/ISP Internet connection will go the way of the Model T.

Note that V.92, the new standard for high-speed modems, is an improved version of the V.90 standard that high-speed modems have been using for a couple of years. However, it must, of course, be supported by your ISP, and many ISPs don't yet support it.

Bigger Might Not Mean Better

When choosing an ISP, don't assume that bigger automatically means better. Huge national ISPs offer 24x7 service departments, but you often get quicker and better response from the good old mom-and-pop ISP in your area. When you're one of a few hundred—versus a few million—accounts, you carry a lot more weight as a customer. Every service is unique, so explore your local ISP to see if it can provide the services and support you need. When evaluating any ISP, look for a local-call access number for your area, national access, reasonable service response time averages, and any auxiliary services you need (e-mail accounts, Web page hosting, and so on).

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