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Dial-up vs High-Speed Internet Service by André D Youmans The

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					                             Dial-up vs. High-Speed Internet Service
                                     by André D. Youmans

        The recent spate of advertising for DSL, satellite, broadband, and cable internet services
has led me to consider my own meager service. As I wait for my computer to dial up to the
internet, I’ll write a few lines on the vices and virtues of the two main types of service: dial-up
service and the various forms of high-speed internet service. Three main issues to compare and
contrast between the two types come to mind: accessibility, speed, and affordability. While I
will attempt to be unbiased in my assessment, you should know that I am an unwilling slave to
dial-up.
        Accessibility is one area in which the differences between dial-up and high-speed internet
service are quite noticeable. One of the many “qualities” of dial-up is the wonderful fact that
when someone is the phone, no one else in the house can use the internet. And, by the same
token, when someone is using the internet, no one can use the phone. With eight people living in
our house, this can be quite an inconvenience. My father keeps promising (threatening?) to put
in a second phone line for internet use, but he has not yet had time to do it. Meanwhile, I’ve had
my share of mishaps with dial-up. For some reason that I still don’t understand, the phone jack
in my room suddenly died, which meant that I needed to find a phone jack somewhere else. The
closest one in the house just so happened to be in the kitchen, which is about 30 feet away from
my room. So I found a 30-foot phone line and ran it out into the kitchen. Apparently the dog
seemed to think it was a chew-toy, and she gnawed through it. I simply bit my lip and did the
best I could to repair the wire. The next day the dog had chewed through it again, this time being
more thorough in her work by chewing it in six different places. For her penance, the dog spent
the next few nights outdoors, and I found myself a new cord in my father’s collection of extra
wires. Once I got the dog retrained I had to teach my little brothers and sisters not to pull the
cord from the jack while I was trying to surf the ‘net.
        While I occasionally have access to high-speed internet at school or at friends’ houses, I
don’t have quite as much experience in dealing with it as I do with dial-up. But from what I have
seen, I can’t find much to complain about. Whenever I visit my cousin, I’m impressed with the
way he can just pop open his laptop, browse the web (which is always “on”), click on a link, and
instantly be taken to his desired location. Back home we brew a pot of coffee while waiting for a
page to load up. But, I digress. I can elaborate more on this topic when discussing speed.
        It seems to me that accessibility and speed are closely related, probably due to the archaic
technology still being used in rural areas. Once my mother was working online when the
connection died. She checked the phone line, and it was dead, too. She called to my father
outside, who was working on fencing out in front of the house. They soon realized that he had
just driven a steel fence post right through the phone line, which was buried a few inches
underground. (A family friend with telecommunications experience came out to splice the line
and repair it for us, but it took several hours.) We also noticed, after some bad weather, that our
driveway had eroded a bit, revealing what appeared to be our telephone line. This was confirmed
when my father drove over it while I was online, and it instantly disconnected me from the
internet. Heavy rains cause crackling in the phone lines, which impairs the quality of the internet
connection and slows it down even more. Dry weather makes the electric fence charger ground
improperly, preventing the dial-up connection from working at all, so I have to go down to the
barn to unplug the fence charger if I want to check my email. Such is life in rural Tennessee.
         You may have seen the commercials for BellSouth DSL service, inviting everyone to sign
up, since it is now so affordable and available. We are BellSouth customers, so we thought this
sounded like a great idea. However, when we visited the BellSouth website and entered our
phone number, we were told that DSL was not available in our area. So much for availability.
For those who are fortunate enough to have high-speed internet service in their area, internet
users do not have to consider the weather, or check to see if anyone is on the phone or expecting
an important call before getting online.
         The only time I’ve heard anything bad about high-speed internet is when I saw one person
claim that the reason he was losing so badly on an online game was that he was “only” running at
a speed of 100 kbps. If it weren’t for the fact that he was in another country I probably would
have throttled him, because I was currently running at a record-breaking speed of 3 kbps. I’ve
noticed that people who use high-speed internet take it for granted that everyone else does, too,
when, in fact, a large percentage of people are still using dial-up technology. This is especially
annoying when trying to work out a problem with a tech support person who cannot understand
why I don’t just go online and work through the problem as he gives me instructions over the
phone.
         My dial-up connection is supposed to run at speeds of up to 56 kbps, but for me it runs at
2 kbps IF it’s a sunny day, certain planets are aligned, and a three-legged llama crosses my path.
Today’s web designers are using more and more Flash and Java applications, which causes the
web pages to take even longer to load for dial-up users. With regular images I can elect to stop
them from loading in order to read the text on the page, but with these fancy applications that is
not an option. I have to wait for the entire page to load, which does make one think carefully
before clicking on something. If I’m careless with my clicking, I could be loading a page for the
next half-hour. And it could turn out to be a page filled with ads for singles classifieds, music
downloads, and a chance to win an Xbox 360. (Yeah, right.) Again, speed and accessibility are
related, because when I only have a limited amount of time for internet use, I can’t afford to
waste time watching an annoying ad load up. And I’m usually being reminded by my parents,
who don’t want me to monopolize the phone line, that my twenty minutes of internet time has
expired. High-speed customers don’t have to worry about this, as they can easily click back to
their original page with no time wasted, and no one is being inconvenienced by their surfing in
the first place.
         Just about the only area in which dial-up is superior to high-speed internet is that of
affordability, but only if we don’t factor in the value of our time. Our family pays only $4.95 a
month, because it is bundled in with our phone service. Even if we put in a second line dedicated
to dial-up internet use, it will cost under $10 more per month. BellSouth DSL costs $24.95 per
month, satellite internet costs about $49.95 per month plus the cost of special equipment and
installation fees, and Comcast costs... well, a lot, but I can’t research the actual cost because I’m
still waiting for my dial-up connection to go through.
         Dial-up is the way to go if you have a couple years to burn loading up pop-up banners and
useless SPAM, or if you’re too far out in the country to get anything else, or if you don’t have
much money to spend. Otherwise, it would just be a better idea to sign up for high-speed
internet. But then you’d miss that lovely little screeching sound that always greets the dial-up
slave as he anxiously listens for his connection to be made. Well, my computer has finally
finished dialing up, so I guess I’ll be going now. I don’t have time to waste!

				
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