What is Dial-Up Internet?

Dial-up internet access is a connection type that operates through a standard telephone line. By running the telephone line to a modem device in the computer and configuring it to dial a specific phone number, the computer can connect to the internet.

How It Works

This type of internet access is offered through many internet service providers (ISPs). Most ISPs lease a set of telephone numbers that allows a computer to send information to network pipelines that feed into the internet. Subscribers to the ISP normally pay a monthly or yearly fee for online access at any time of the day or night. However, before a person can subscribe to a dial-up service, they must have a computer and a certain type of modem. A modem is a device that converts digital data into signals that can be sent over the phone line; some models fit into a free slot inside the computer, while others are external and connect to the machine with a cable. A telephone line is plugged into the modem to connect it to the phone system.

The modem is controlled by software in the computer which allows the user to set up a profile for the ISP, which will tell the modem what phone number to call and how to communicate with the service. The subscriber chooses a username and password or has one assigned by the ISP, and this information is transmitted by the modem to allow the user to connect to the device.


Dial-up service is normally the least expensive type of internet access, and may even be free in some places, although often with advertising added to it. It is also available to anyone who has a phone line, so there’s no need for a separate connection to be added to a home. Most computers already have modems installed, so there’s often no additional hardware to buy to start the service.


The biggest problem with dial-up is that it can be slower than others. Due to the limited bandwidth, which is the ability for the modem to send and receive data, downloading large files can take a very long time. Dial-up also depends on the regular telephone line, which means that a home must pay for regular phone service to connect. The phone cannot be used for any other purpose, such as calls, while the computer is using the line in most cases, and any disruption to the line will typically break the connection.

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