The media has been telling us for years that dial up internet is a dying technology and that the age of the dial tone connection has, at last, come to an end. So what of those who still use dial up technology? No – these people aren’t a myth, they’re out there and there are a lot more of them than you might think. Just six years ago 35% of the population still used dial up, 60% of these expressed clearly that they had no interest in switching to broadband and while it is true that the numbers have dropped there are still a number of dial up users out there.
So – why are there dial up users? For many of us it isn’t so much a case of preferring dial up, it is slower, it is a little inconvenient, but it’s cheap and its easy. 20% of people in the UK don’t actually use the internet that much at home; checking emails and looking at news sites, particularly in age groups over forty. Most other internet use is becoming more and more hand-held, using 3G and 4G internet which is cheaply acquired with most phone packages at a much better rate than the cost of broadband, despite similar if not sometimes faster speeds. Why pay for broadband if you’re only going to be using the internet for ten minutes a day? There’s no reason to.
Cost is one of the biggest reasons that people make the choices they do, so in this aspect dial up internet should be a basic choice if you aren’t going to take advantage of broadband. When does broadband internet become cost effective? When you’re using it every day, downloading files, uploading files, streaming music and videos, loading twelve website tabs and having Skype conversations with four friends – yes, you probably need broadband, and decent broadband at that. However, reading emails and the latest news articles for a few hours a week – no, I seriously doubt broadband is an actual requirement here.
It’s a bit like paying your water bill; you can either go on a meter and pay for what you use, or you can go on a set plan which charges you for a nice big vat of water which you may or may not actually use, but that doesn’t matter because you’ll still pay for a new one next month. If you’re outside of your home working all day and use very little water when you are home then paying for unlimited water you’re not using is probably a bit less than cost effective, of course if you have an active family and someone is always home running the tap and leaving it going then yes – save yourself some money and get a nice unlimited supply of water at one set price.
The myths surrounding dial up internet makes it seem much less desirable than it actually is of course. So many people are lured in by the promises made by broadband companies, “you could be getting 30MB/ps download speeds!” I heard this one on my internet package when my family moved to a new home in the countryside, but of course when we were actually getting a 0.05 MB download speed (no, that’s not a mistake, that was the actual speed £32 a month was getting us) we complained, to which the company simply stated “we said you could be, we didn’t promise you would”. Of course this happens when you live in a rural area as so many in the UK do, and you don’t get much of a chance to test out the service before you end up signed into a 12 or 24 month contract. At least with dialup we could get 56KB of reliable internet connection.
Yes; 56KB does sound small, but it gets the job done. Most websites only use 15KB – 25KB to view a page, which on a dial up internet connection loads in about four seconds. 80% of the time your additional broadband speed is just sitting there, not being used for anything. Did you know that the average charge for dial up internet is 1p a minute? Most people using dial up end up paying less than half of what a majority of broadband users do, and they still have access to the internet and all the important things that they’re looking for there. Not to mention they quite often have a more reliable and secure; reports of people ‘piggybacking’ WiFi are getting higher, which can send the cost of your broadband way up (thieves don’t care about the fair usage policy you signed, and companies don’t care if it was you or a shady man outside your house with a laptop that did it). However, name the last time you heard someone’s dialup was cracked and stolen. You can’t – it doesn’t happen, dial up is secure and requires a direct connection. This makes it much harder to steal.
Kate is a keen writer who is extremely interested in the internet. Her preferred topic covers the use of dial-up internet and its benefits.