Broadband internet has been in existence since the early 2000s, quickly bumping out the seemingly never-ending wait to connect to the internet via your telephone line. Although many of today’s internet users nostalgically look back at the sounds of dial-up internet as a thing of the past, some people still use it today.
In some rural areas, high-speed internet isn’t yet available, or it doesn’t come at an affordable price. For people who only use the web to check emails or browse simple internet pages, like news sites or school websites, high-speed internet simply isn’t a necessity.
If dial-up internet still works for these internet users, why not stick with it? They may not be able to play online games or stream video, but for the 1.9 million people who still rely on dial-up, perhaps those tasks aren’t necessities. If you’re one of those people, this guide to the best dial-up internet in 2021 could help you find the right internet service provider and plan for you and your household based on pricing, speed capabilities, and usage limits.
What Is Dial-up Internet?
Dial-up internet connects to the web through a regular phone line. Remember when you used to double-click an icon on your computer desktop to connect to the internet, followed by ringing, screeching, clicking, and beeping sounds as the internet awaited your arrival? That’s dial-up.
How Does Dial-up Internet Work?
Because dial-up internet requires the use of a phone line to connect to the internet, it also requires a telephone number to connect to. After you open the connection client, your modem will dial a number, creating the same sound it would if you called someone on the phone. Once the call goes through, the modem works to establish an internet connection. Several seconds (sometimes, minutes) later, you can start browsing the internet.
The Pros and Cons of Dial-up Internet
Like most internet types, dial-up comes with some advantages and disadvantages. One of the benefits of dial-up is that it is easy to set up for most people. If you already have a phone line installed in your home, you’ll just need to connect your modem to it, hop on the computer, and start dialing up. Dial-up can also be a blessing for residents in rural areas without other internet choices.
That said, the process of connecting via dial-up can be underwhelming. Connecting to the internet can sometimes take a while or not work at all. Once you are connected, you’re subject to slow speeds of up to 56k, max, which may not be enough to load some of today’s websites, especially if they’re inundated with ads, videos, and other loading-intense elements.
The Best Dial-up Internet Providers in 2021
Finding a dial-up internet provider in 2021 can be a challenge as many companies move away from providing dial-up in favor of high-speed internet options. Still, there are a few dial-up companies still prevalent in the United States. The chart below compares their plans by pricing, fastest speed, and caps on monthly internet usage when connected to their networks.
|Internet Provider||Fastest Speed||Monthly Usage Limits||Plan||Monthly Pricing*|
|NetZero||56k||30 hours||NetZero Dial-Up||$29.95|
|Juno||56k||May limit usage||Juno Turbo Accelerated Dial-Up||$29.95|
|Local Net||56k||350 hours||LocalNet Dialup||$14.95|
|Dialup 4 Less||56k||Unlimited||Unlimited Dialup Plan||$10.95|
|BasicISP||56k||Unlimited||Standard Dialup Plan||$8.95|
|Turbo USA||56k||Unlimited||Turbo USA High-Speed Dial-Up||$8.95|
*Prices are subject to change.
All About Dial-up Internet in 2021
Although dial-up isn’t nearly as common as it once was, some people still find it beneficial for their needs. Here’s what to expect from today’s dial-up internet.
You can easily find dial-up internet plans for under $30 a month, with some even falling below $10 a month. The higher-priced plans typically include a speed accelerator to boost your dial-up connection for more consistent speeds and other perks, like an email address, virus protection, and email spam filtering.
The usage of dial-up is steadily declining, so it may not be easy to find dial-up internet, especially if you live in an area with plenty of high-speed providers. You can check the websites of the dial-up providers listed above to see if they have service in your area or contact your local providers to ask if they offer dial-up services.
The maximum download and upload speed of dial-up internet is 0.056 Mbps (56k). This is much slower than other internet types with lower speeds, like satellite and DSL, both of which can get speeds of about 20-35 Mbps.
Unlike other internet types, like cable, DSL, and fiber, dial-up internet usually does not have data caps. However, your ISP may limit how many hours each month you can access your internet, often to ensure that others who also use dial-up in your area can connect when they need to, too.
Dial-up Internet Quality
Dial-up internet is best for light internet usage and basic activities, like checking your email and browsing websites that don’t contain several images and scripts. If you like to read the news online, stay in contact through email, and do some light research on the web, a dial-up internet connection may serve you well.
What it won’t do is let you stream. If you plan to play games, watch videos, or take advantage of your streaming TV and movie networks, your dial-up connection is likely to let you down.
How to Set up Dial-up Internet
Once you’ve decided on an internet service provider and have your account set up, it’s time to connect your service. Your ISP should give you the modem and all the information you need to connect, including your username, password, and the phone number to dial for your connection. Connect your telephone line to your modem before trying to connect.
Some ISPs provide you with a program to download to your computer to help you connect to the internet. You can install this program and double-click it each time you want to connect. If your ISP doesn’t offer this, you’ll need to connect using your computer’s network settings.
Here are the steps for Windows 10:
- Click the Windows icon in the lower-left corner of your screen.
- Click Settings
- Navigate to Network & Internet and click the link
- Open Network and Sharing Center
- Click “Set up a new connection or network”
- Click “Connect to the internet” and follow the prompts to set up your connection using the information from your ISP
Are People Still Using Dial-up Internet?
Back in 2009, AOL was still beaming with 5.8 million subscribers to its dial-up internet. In 2013, that number got slashed nearly in half, with 2.6 million people subscribing to the dial-up service. In 2019, Statista showed a decrease to 1.9 million people with dial-up—a far cry from the 90s and early 2000s when dial-up was the leader of the pack.
Dial-up is certainly phasing out since the introduction of high-speed options to residents across the nation. It’s rare to find areas without any internet options besides dial-up, as satellite internet is typically available in those regions. Still, about 18 million people in the United States don’t have access to broadband, and around 14.5 million are rural residents.
Therefore, dial-up isn’t extinct yet, but its time may be wearing out. Several government programs and officials are pushing to find ways to deliver broadband internet to all residents without access to high-speed internet, like a USDA program offering $600 million in grants and loans to boost broadband availability.
Is Dial-up Internet Right for You?
Is dial-up right for you? If you have no affordable access to other options and don’t use the internet much, it could be. However, if you need to use the web more frequently than a few minutes each day or for more than just email and light browsing, a high-speed internet connection will probably serve you better.
If dial-up is your only choice, be sure to find a company that gives you the most for your money. Some affordable options under $10 per month let you access the internet for unlimited hours and give you other perks like an email address, spam protection, and speed accelerators.
Frequently Asked Questions About Dial-up Internet
Can you still use dial-up internet?
Yes, you can still use dial-up internet if you have a telephone line, a required modem, and access to an internet provider with dial-up service. However, as more online tasks, like video streaming and web browsing, become more intensive, a high-speed internet connection, if available, might be one to consider.
Is dial-up faster than satellite internet?
Typically, you can get a much faster internet connection with satellite than you can with dial-up. While dial-up connects through a phone line, satellite internet requires no cables or telephone lines, which allows for a smoother and speedier connection than dial-up.
What is the fastest dial-up internet service?
Most dial-up internet services can get speeds of up to 56k. However, those with speed accelerators, like NetZero and Juno, may help to increase speeds more consistently by compressing unnecessary elements in emails and web pages to help them load faster.
What are the disadvantages of having dial-up internet service?
The most significant disadvantage of having dial-up internet service is its low speeds. Dial-up internet can’t handle many of today’s online tasks, including watching videos or playing games online with its maximum upload and download speeds of 56k, compared to the average internet speed of about 35 Mbps in all states.