Monday, March 31, 2008

Dial-Up is Alive and Kicking

In this enlightened age of broadband, why even bring up the subject of dial-up Internet service? Isn't that technology from the last century? The buggy whip of technology?

Don't be so quick to dismiss dial-up Internet access as yesterday's news. Millions of your friends and neighbors gladly endure the shriek of the connecting modem as they prepare to surf the Web or check their email. One person's shrill electronic scream is the sweet sound of money to another.

Saving money is a prime benefit that comes with using dial-up Internet access rather than DSL or Cable broadband. Where else can you get unlimited access just about anywhere you live or are staying for a mere $9.95 a month? There's only one thing that competes at this price level and that's free Internet service.

Free? Sure, assuming that you have a laptop or notebook computer. Lots of restaurants offer free WiFi service. Most every portable computer built recently has WiFi access capability. With an older computer you can get a plug-in card that acts as a WiFi modem for $20 or less if you watch for the sales. Just do all your Internet work while you are having lunch and you pay nothing for service. Well, you have to pay for food or a coffee. But I assume you need to eat anyway.

But what if running to your local bistro every time you want to check your email messages isn't convenient? What if you live in a rural area where it's a good drive to get anywhere that has WiFi? What if you travel a lot and not all of the hotels you stay in have WiFi? Or, what if you want to work in peace late at night when everything is closed? Then what?

You, my friend, are a prime candidate for dial-up Internet service. Just like every laptop computer has WiFi capability, nearly every laptop and desk top computer has a dial-up modem built-in. The new super-thin Apple Air doesn't, but there's an accessory modem you can buy. For everyone else, if there is a phone jack on the back of your computer, you've got a modem inside. It's likely built to the 56K V.90 or V.92 standards that pretty much max out the speed capacity of an analog telephone line.

What's 56 Kbps service good for? If you've been on broadband for awhile, you'd be surprised by how well you can use standard Web browsers on sites that are mostly text and graphics. In fact, with some sites being slow to load anyway, you might forget you've even on dial-up.

I had this experience a year ago when my Cable Internet provider decided to do a major upgrade and bit off more than they could chew. It took a month for normal service to resume. In the mean time, I used a dial-up service that hosts my original Web site plus occasional forays to Panera Bread for lunch. I got by just fine. Not so for the broadband only users who went to WiFi hotspots and spent all their time griping on various forums about this service outrage.

That's another good use for dial-up. It's a handy backup service when your broadband goes down. They pretty much all go down sooner or later. Some providers offer you a limited number of free dial-up minutes on their own backup services. Most leave you to your own devices.

If you are a dial-up user now or would like the comfort of having this service available, you should take a look at World Verge Dial-Up Internet for $9.95 a month. You get unlimited access, a huge choice of local numbers, a downloadable dialer that has all the numbers built-in for travel use, spam and virus filter, 5 email accounts, 5 Mb of personal Web space, compatibility with both Windows and Macintosh computers, and free 24/7 tech support.

If you want to surf the Web faster, an additional $2.95 a month gets you an accelerator that will speed Web page loading by 5X. It does this using compression techniques, so it doesn't do anything to speed music or video downloads. But if you mostly cruise the Web, you may find that the accelerator gives you a virtual broadband experience.

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