What Is a Dial-up Connection, and How Does It Work?

dial-up-connection-work Credit: Hossam el-Hamalawy/CC-BY-2.0

Dial-up Internet access allows consumers to connect to the Internet through a regular phone line when their modem-equipped personal computers make a telephone call to an Internet service provider. Compared to broadband, dial-up connections are slow and easily disconnected.

According to Hubris Communications, which offers dial-up among its offerings, there are still advantages to using dial-up. These include the fact that it's significantly cheaper than DSL and each dial-up customer is able to use his account while traveling, as most ISPs offer numerous connecting dial-up numbers throughout the United States and beyond.

In an article published in late 2013, the San Jose Mercury News reported that while 70 percent of U.S. adults use broadband, 3 percent continue to use dial-up. The latter percentage has not changed since 2011. Most current dial-up users say they stick with that technology, as they believe broadband is too expensive.

The San Jose Mercury News article cited a Pew Research Center study conducted in 2013 that indicated that most ISPs make the bulk of their profits from business hosting and data center management. ISPs that still offer dial-up do so as an extra service for the small number of customers unwilling to change to broadband.