- how to choose an Internet Service Provider a site by Gromco


While modem (dialup) technology is still relatively widespread, most people should probably be looking to avoid using it because it is simply not up to modern standards. Nevertheless, not everybody can get a broadband connection in their area and so for people with limited options, we're happy to provide this overview.

As a relatively old technology, regular telephone modems can only achieve speeds between 28.8 Kbps and 50 Kbps. [What do these speeds mean? To try to get an idea, you can use our JavaScript calculator]

Despite their low speed, modems do have one significant advantage over other technologies - they allow you to connect from (almost) anywhere where you can find a phone line. That includes many rural areas. In addition, dialup plans are typically the cheapest among all ISP offerings.

Disadvantages: Low speed is the biggest one. A connection that has to be established ("dialed up") is another. It may take up to a few minutes to establish a connection and it's not even guaranteed. Because ISP's essentially have to guess how many customers would want to connect to a certain modem pool, they frequently underestimate the peak hour load and your connection may be refused. In this case, you have to redial or try another number. Another disadvantage is, quite simply, that you need a modem (usually not built in in modern computers).

Technologies Used for Dialup Connectivity

Not that you really need to know this, but modems use different technologies. Nowadays, the v90/v92 standard is the most popular way to squeeze 56Kbps out of your telephone line. However, two older standards called x2 and KFlex still exist.

† TIP: When selecting a dialup ISP, verify that your modem type is supported. Otherwise, you will only be able to connect at speeds that are even lower than the modest 50 Kbps. With that said, most computers manufactured after 2002 have v90/v92 modems built in and most ISP's support them by default.


The actual speed of your modem "may vary" depending on the quality of your phone line and your ISP. In reality you may even never get full 56 Kbps speed no matter what the modem's packaging says. According to independent testers, the majority of "56 Kbps" customers will actually connect at speeds from 40 Kbps to 50 Kbps - still better than the 'plain' (=really old) modem, but not quite as good as the theoretical maximum.

In addition, because of FCC regulations, actual speeds for x2 and v90 modems are limited to 53 Kbps in the U.S. Given the above consideration (the majority of users can't even get above 50 Kbps) this isn't a huge limitation, though. Finally, 56 Kbps modems are "asymmetrical": their upload speed is actually slower than their download speed (upload is about 33 Kbps).

Other Considerations

Before subscribing to a dialup plan, you should try to find out the answers to the following questions:

  • How many access numbers does the ISP provide?
  • How many of them are in your area code?
  • Is your modem type supported?
  • Are there any limitations on the number of hours per month you can use the service? (Some ISP's offer "unlimited" dialup connections, some impose limits and may charge you hefty fees if you go over the limit)
  • Is there any special software required to connect to the ISP? Which platforms are supported?

Ideally, you'd also want to know what the experience of other users have been (especially regarding dropped connections and busy signals - the two biggest complains about dialup, apart from the slow speed).


While dialup access is the most economical solution for people which works for people who only need occasional access to the Internet, there are many reasons why most computer users should look into high-speed access options.

Also, in case you didn't know, your local phone company may be charging you for local calls. That will add up to a lot of money if you spend a few hours a day online. Third, even with best the ISP's, connections are dropped once in a while and you have to re-dial, which is very annoying.

If all of this made you want to look at high-speed options, you can read more about DSL and cable access.

WWW ispmenu.com
Copyright © 1998-2006 Gromco, Inc
Contact: info [at] ispmenu.com