Dial-up: Is it Fast Enough?

by Hannah Miller 28. September 2009 21:41

Trying to describe the connection speed of dial-up is difficult. You're using 56K modems, but it's not really 56 kilobits per second. Here's an in-depth explanation of dial-up speeds and what they can accomplish.

Basic Web Surfing. Most webpages will load with dial-up. How long it will take depends on almost a dozen factors. For example, in the last ten years, many more websites are using multimedia technology (videos, music, animations) that are difficult to load on even the best dial-up connection. However, compression technology and other techniques in graphic and web design are improving, making webpages easier to load than before. Some websites have a simple layout view that you can choose if you are on a dial-up connection. Many website will load the prominent features first, then all the pictures and backgrounds. If you see the link or form you were looking for, you don't have to wait for the entire page to load to click or type on it.

Many Internet services, software programs, and browsers that offer tools to help you load webpages faster. You can probably use a combination of these three that will work best for you. These will not change your actual connection speed (measured in kilobits per second, or kbps), but compress webpages or use different loading techniques.

Most dial-up connection speeds are about 28-50 kbps. If your connection is less than 28, you may need to check with your ISP, phone company, and local computer technician for ways to improve your connection, if possible. Assuming you have a typical connection, here are likely loading times for three websites, without acceleration:

  • Google.com-On a dial up connection, this page should load in about 5-7 seconds.
  • Yahoo.com-This page is much busier, so it would take 35-45 seconds on dial-up. Keep in mind, however, you can begin searches and click on links as soon as they appear, so you rarely need to wait for the entire page to load.

  • CNN.com-This site is heavy with text, headings, and images. Using a dial up connection, the home page should load in about 3 minutes.

Downloads. The difference in connection speeds are most visible for downloads. Accelerators can't change download speeds and, on dial-up, every kilobit counts. Smaller downloads (about 1-10 MB) are usually not a problem. If you download a 3 MB song, for example, on a 50 kbps dial-up connection, it take about 8-10 minutes, or 15-20 minutes on a 28 kbps connection.

Firefox 3.5 is the latest version of Mozilla's free browser. It is 7.6 MB, which would take just over 20 minutes on a faster dial-up connection, or about 45 minutes on a slower. If you get disconnected occasionally because of line noise, etc., you may need to make several attempts to download programs that are longer than 2 hours.

Large downloads, like an anti-virus program or major software upgrades are sometimes not possible with dial-up because most dial-up providers have automatic disconnect at 4 hours. The free version of AVG 8.5, for instance, is 63.1 MB. On a good dial-up connection, that would take over 3 hours; on a 28 kbps connection, nearly 6 hours. A download larger than 40 MB would probably not ever download on a 28 kbps connection. You can often download large programs like these to another computer (like the library or your laptop on a public wireless connection) and transfer the installation file to your computer later. Read more about ways to improve your downloads on dial-up or how to calculate download times.

Video/Audio Streaming. Live streaming, like a radio station's website, YouTube, and many interactive multimedia sites are not going to work on dial-up. In some cases, you can play a short video or audio clip if you wait an hour or more to load it. If you need to attend live web seminars or classes, or want to play online games, movies, or music in real time, dial-up will simply not be satisfactory. However, if you need an Internet connection to surf the web, check your email, play small flash games, and pay bills, dial-up will be fine. The money you'll save might make waiting a little easier.

***

Written by Hannah Miller, Online Marketing Representative and Customer Service, Copper.net.

Copper.net is a nationwide Internet services provider that is all-American owned and operated. Call today, 1-800-336-3318 or sign up online at www.copper.net! Check out my blog for more articles! 

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A Comparison of Dial-up and DSL

by Hannah Miller 21. September 2009 20:33

 

If you are considering signing up for DSL, you may wonder how DSL compares to dial-up. In this comparison, we will compare dial-up with ADSL, the most common DSL service that connects through a telephone line.

Dial-up and DSL both transmit information through your copper phone wires, but the process is different. A dial-up modem converts the analog signal on your phone line into digital information your computer can translate. Your ISP's modem must convert from digital to analog so it can travel on the phone lines. DSL uses the same lines, but bypasses the digital-analog-digital conversion. This means data can travel faster and the analog phone line can still be used while your connected to the Internet.

The total monthly price for dial-up is about $7-20 dollars a month, and installation is usually free. In some cases, the dial-up modem is not functioning or not automatically installed on the computer, so you would need to buy $20-40 modem. DSL's monthly rate can be anywhere from $15-100 a month, depending on the speed desired and the location of the consumer. More equipment is necessary for DSL and the installation is more complicated, so you can expect about $50 in start-up fees.

Dial-up exceeds DSL in transportability and availability. Dial-up service is available to any computer and any land line phone, which means you can take dial-up with you if you travel or move. Since DSL is strictly available to homes within a certain distance from the phone company's central office, rural areas can rarely be served. Many times several hundred feet determines whether or not DSL is available.

Furthermore, many phone companies do not allow other DSL companies to provide service on their customer's lines. This monopoly can increase the price of DSL, or keep DSL from being available without changing phone companies. When signing up for another company's DSL is possible, further complications can occur when activation and technical support is necessary.

A DSL set-up process takes at least several days and sometimes as much as two weeks, due to the changes to your phone line and the equipment shipping and set up time. Dial-up has a very simple to set up because the phone company does not need to be involved, and no major changes or expensive equipment is necessary. All you need is one phone cord and your existing phone jack and computer. Unless you have to wait for a setup CD to be mailed to you (which is often not necessary), you can be connected within half an hour of signing up. Of course, this means you can also change your connection set up or set up multiple connections with little effort.

DSL is a constant connection with high-speeds compatible with online games, downloads, and videos, but the price, availability, and setup procedure may be critically deterring factors. Dial-up is a simple, available, and cost effective option for many basic online uses, but will not keep up with some high-speed activities.

***

Written by Hannah Miller, Online Marketing Representative and Customer Service, Copper.net.

Copper.net is a nationwide Internet services provider that is all-American owned and operated. Call today, 1-800-336-3318 or sign up online at www.copper.net! Check out my blog for more articles! 

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dial-up | DSL

How to Find the Best Dial-up ISP

by Hannah Miller 11. September 2009 20:10

Have you ever tried to get help over the phone and waited for hours, just to talk to someone who is poorly trained and is difficult to understand? Are you paying more than $15 for dial-up? Have you been misinformed about hidden fees, contractual agreements, or found cancellation nearly impossible? It sounds like you know a few things about what makes a poor quality dial-up service.

Finding the best ISP can be difficult. If you were to make a list of who provides dial-up Internet, you would probably include AOL, Earthlink, and Netzero. While these companies have become brand names in the dial-up world, they are among hundreds, maybe thousands of dial-up Internet services available. It would be easy to sign up with these well-known companies or the first dial-up service you find in your area, but you could be making a mistake.

Most of the prominent dial-up companies have outsourced their customer service and technical support call centers in order to save money and avoid the hassle of hiring and training their own employees. This only causes never-ending issues with customers and is one of the top reasons customers are not satisfied with their ISP. Some companies require you to sign a contract or charge fees for technical support or cancellation. Multiple factors will affect your Internet service satisfaction, and just because everyone knows who Netzero is doesn't mean they are the best.

You may be surprised what a smaller company has to offer. They might not have been around since the beginning of dial-up, but they probably understand a few things that you want and need. They are concerned about making and keeping great relationships with their customers, not just making money or trying to convince you to switch to broadband. Finding the best dial-up company for your needs will take a little research.

Fortunately, some of this research has already been done. Several websites list the top dial-up providers, based on factors that you would want to know. These sites list less-known ISP's who invest more time to make a more quality experience for you. These three websites are a great place to start:

There are many comparison websites, but these sites listed above have the widest selection, updated information, and simple navigation.

You will see the basics about each listed company, including the price, ratings, features, and special offers. You will also see written reviews, which can be helpful in narrowing down your options. Keep in mind that single, highly negative reviews could be an isolated situation that does not reflect the opinions of the average user.

Many dial-up companies offer a first-time customer discount. These review websites often directly link to that site's promotional web page, and includes the discount offer. Why not save money where you can?

Choosing the best ISP could be a process of trial and error. These three websites will help make your first choice the right one. You may also find some general information about dial-up and Internet services that will further aid your online experience.

Many companies sell dial-up, and just because everyone you know uses Earthlink, or you had AOL growing up doesn't mean you have to be one of their customers too. Take advantage of a competitive market and find the service that is right for you.

***

Written by Hannah Miller, Online Marketing Representative and Customer Service, Copper.net.

Copper.net is a nationwide Internet services provider that is all-American owned and operated. Call today, 1-800-336-3318 or sign up online at www.copper.net! Check out my blog for more articles! 

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Calculating Download Times on Dial-up

by Hannah Miller 24. August 2009 21:42

There are several common misconceptions about dial-up connection speeds. For example, even if you are using a 56K modem, you are unfortunately not really connecting at 56 kbps. Because of physical limitations and FCC regulations, the highest connection speed possible on dial-up is 51-53 kbps. Most people connect at about 24-48 kbps (kilobits per second).

When you first get connected on dial-up, you should get a pop-up in the lower right corner of the screen telling you your connection speed, e.g., “You are now connected at 32.4 kbps.”

If you don't see a pop-up, you can also check your connection speed while you are connected. From your control panel, open your Network Connections window and double-click the icon for your dial-up connection. Your connection statistics should show in that window and the speed will be listed first.

Once you determine your speed, you can determine download times. However, you must first understand units of measurement and conversion rates. When measuring transfer rate (ie., how many bits can be downloaded per second) of Internet connections, the size increments are 1000. Therefore, a kilobit is 1,000 bits, and an megabit is 1,000 kilobits, etc.

Storage capacity on hard drives and cell phones, etc., and sizes of files or software programs, etc., are measured in bytes. This is not to be confused with bits. A byte is 8 bits strung together. Bytes are notated with a capital B, and bits with a small b. Therefore, a “kb” is a kilobit and a “KB” is a kilobyte. Bytes are always in size increments of 1,024 since they use the binary counting system used to store information on computers. Therefore, a kilobyte is 1,024 bytes, and a megabyte is 1,024 kilobytes, etc.

Since all Internet downloads are measured in bytes (webpages, files, pictures, and programs), you have to do a little math to understand how quickly dial-up (measured in bits per second) can download it. Remember, a byte is 8 bits, and one KB is 8 kb! First, multiply the file size in kilobytes by 8 to convert the file to kilobits. Then, divide it by the number of kilobits per second your connection will transfer.

For example, if you want to know how quickly a 500 kilobyte (KB) file (perhaps a picture that was emailed to you) will download on a 40 kbps connection, first convert the file to size in bits. 500 kilobytes (KB) = 4,000 kilobits (kb). Then divide the bits by 40 kbps. 4,000 kilobits / 40 bits per second = 100 seconds, or almost two minutes.

Larger downloads are often measured in MB's, which means you have to convert them to KB's before you can convert them to kb's. 1 MB = 1,024 KB = 8192 kb. 1 MB on a 40 kbps connection would download in 204.8 seconds, or just over three minutes.

A song is usually about 3 MB, so it would take about 10 minutes. If you downloaded a large program like Adobe Reader, which is 35.7 MB, the download time would be about 2 hours on a 40 kbps connection.

The actual download time will be close to your calculation, however, your connection speed can change while you are connected if your modem has to adjust its speed to accommodate line noise. Your download times may also be longer if other processes on your computer are using your Internet connection, such as automatic updates or web-surfing while you wait. Minimize your online activity during a download and check with your local computer technician for ways to eliminate bandwidth-consuming processes faster downloads. Read more about increasing your download times on dial-up.

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Written by Hannah Miller, Online Marketing Representative and Customer Service, Copper.net.

Copper.net is a nationwide Internet services provider that is all-American owned and operated. Call today, 1-800-336-3318 or sign up online at www.copper.net! Check out my blog for more articles! 

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How to Get the Fastest Dial-up Connection

by Hannah Miller 21. August 2009 20:19

Dial-up Internet depends on several factors to both establish and maintain a connection. There are 5 factors that contribute to your connection speed. Therefore, improvements made to these factors could greatly increase your connection quality and speed. Here's how each of these factors can effect your connection speed:

Your modem. Dial-up has changed greatly from the time it was first developed. The most recent and widely used model of dial-up modems is the 56k modem with a V.92 standard. The maximum download speed is up to 56K, but several factors affect your actual connection speed. The V.92 version features faster start-up time (establishing the connection), faster uploading speeds, and Internet call-waiting (the ability to put the Internet on hold if you get an incoming call while you're online). Most computers (even as far back as Windows 98) have a 56K modem by now, but not all computers have the V.92 standard. You may be able to greatly improve your connection speed by switching to V.92 if you don't already have it. You should definitely upgrade to a 56K modem if you are using anything older.

Your phone cord setup. Do you have multiple configurations of phone cords and splitters running through your house? You may be sacrificing the quality of your Internet connection. An ideal set up would be one short (less than 4 feet) phone cord going straight from the phone jack in the wall to your computer. A splitter or a cord longer than 5 feet increases your chances of having slower connections or disconnects. You may need to reevaluate your setup to check if any changes can be made. Many computer's modem port has another outgoing port directly beside it labeled “phone”. Instead of using a splitter, plug your phone cord going to your telephone into the “phone” port in the back of your computer, to give your modem the most direct connection.

Your interior phone lines. If the telephone cord wiring in your house is damaged or aged, they may need to be replaced. Also, if it runs too close to florescent lights or electrical appliances, you are much more likely to experience line noise that can slow your connection speed. Frequent humming or static on the phone line will inhibit the modems from hearing the analog signal they use to transport information. If possible, plug a telephone to the jack at the source outside your house. If the line is clear there, you know the static is coming from wiring issues inside your house.

The exterior phone line. If the line noise is still evident outside your home, your phone company may need to repair or replace the phone lines going to your house. Also, the greater the distance you are from the telephone company's central office, the more susceptible you are to slow or dropped connections. This is why rural homes have slower or no dial-up service in their area.

The access number. Your ISP provides the access number that your modem dials to reach their modem and establish a connection. Occasionally, a slow connection, busy signal, or dropped connection is due to a network outage on the access number you are using. You should ask your ISP for several access numbers for your area so you have a few to choose from if one of them stops working well. Also, check with your phone company if the access numbers are local. This not only helps establish a better connection, it also keeping you from stacking up long distance charges!

While there are some things that simply cannot be helped, there are improvements that can be made. Keep in mind that your connection speed is only one factor in how quickly you can access websites and download files. Check for tips online, call your ISP, or see your local computer technician for ways to improve your computer's speed and browse faster online.

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Written by Hannah Miller, Online Marketing Representative and Customer Service, Copper.net.

Copper.net is a nationwide Internet services provider that is all-American owned and operated. Call today, 1-800-336-3318 or sign up online at www.copper.net! Check out my blog for more articles! 

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Why Dial-up Isn't Really 56K

by Hannah Miller 19. August 2009 23:33

Dial-up Internet is a narrowband Internet connection that figuratively downloads information at 56 kbps (kilobits per second). That's 56 bits, or 7 bytes of data per second that can be downloaded to your computer from the Internet, whether it's email, websites, or files.

If you use dial-up, you may have noticed that you are not connecting to the Internet at 56 kbps or 56000 bps. Or perhaps you've noticed that your downloads are slower then 7 bytes per second. Who's fault is it? The ISP? Although many people choose them as the first to blame, the ISP is minimally responsible for your connection speed.

In order to understand Internet connection speeds, here is a basic overview of how dial up works:

  1. You click connect on your computer to initiate a dial-up connection.
  2. Your dial-up modem places a call on your telephone lines to another modem on your ISP's end.
  3. The two modems then send and receive test packets of information and agree on the optimal connection speed that they can send without losing or jumbling the information (hence, the screeching sounds).
  4. The connection and speed is established, allowing you to send and receive information, that is, webpages, email, etc.

The dial-up modem itself can receive information at 56 kilobits per second, but since it's using the telephone lines, several limitations apply. The connection speed, then, is the highest speed possible to send and receive packets of data based on the type of modem you have, the amount of inhibiting line noise or static is on the line, and the distance between your modem and the telephone company's central office. With these factors in play, few dial-up users are physically capable of a connection speed much higher than 48-50 kbps.

Furthermore, the FCC has limited the maximum download speed to no more than 53.3 kilobits per second. This was to prevent “cross-talk”, where the activity of the dial up connection would run over into other lines and be heard on nearby telephone conversations. In the most ideal situation, you would live next door to the telephone company, and have brand new lines and modem. Your connection speed would most likely be 51-53 kbps.

Since dial-up modems have to hear analog signals over your phone line to send and receive information, one of the biggest factors of slow connection speeds and disconnects is the telephone line. Some things can be done, like shortening the distance of the phone cord to the modem and rewiring phone cords in your house. Unfortunately, many rural dial-up customers are often left with little or no solutions. If you live too far from the phone company's central office, you may not be physically capable of getting faster connections. Sometimes phone company cannot afford to replace large sections of phone cords, especially if they are still in usable for phone conversations.

If you notice that you are getting low connection speeds, consider the following:

  • Are you using a splitter or a phone cord longer than 5 feet? Try rearranging your computer set up to give your modem the closest access to the phone jack. Most modem ports have a second jack for your telephone so a splitter is not needed.

  • Do you often hear static or humming on your home phone? You may need to rewire the lines in your house or the phone company may need to repair wires going to your home.

  • Have you recently had inclement weather? Sometimes storms and heavy rain can cause temporary slow connection issues.

  • Are you connecting to a local access number? Get several numbers for your area from your ISP, then check with your phone company to make sure the are local. Try several local numbers and see if one connects better than the other.

  • Is your modem out of date (and lacking the latest compression technology)? Perhaps you need to buy a new modem or download new drivers for your model from the manufacturer's website.

Keep in mind that there are other ways to improve your download speeds and load webpages faster. You could update to the latest version of your browser, install web accelerators, and eliminate unnecessary processes running on your computer. See a local technician for help and more advice.

***

Written by Hannah Miller, Online Marketing Representative and Customer Service, Copper.net.

Copper.net is a nationwide Internet services provider that is all-American owned and operated. Call today, 1-800-336-3318 or sign up online at www.copper.net! Check out my blog for more articles! 

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About the author

Hannah Miller is an Online Marketing Representative for Copper.net - America's best provider for Dial-Up Internet Service since 1997.

Hannah has been a Customer Service and Tech Support agent for Copper.net since 2007, which has supplemented her knowledge of dial-up, computers, and the Internet. The entries that are posted in this blog are professional articles relating to our industry. Email your questions, suggestions, and other comments to hmiller@copper.net.

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