Posted on: 08.11.18

When is dial-up not dial-up?

For some of our rural customers, dial-up internet is a thing of the not-too-distant past, remembered with a shudder. It’s not so long ago (pre-Uber) that your connection timed out before you could complete your air booking – by which time the seat specials were all sold.

If you’re on one of our connections with a data cap and you don’t keep an eye on your usage, you might find your connection is ‘capped’ from time to time – this means you’ve used all your data for the month and you’re slowed to ‘dial-up’ speed. There’s lots you can do about that, covered later, but we’ve been asked the question “why doesn’t dial-up work like it used to?” so here is the answer.

Not so long ago, the internet was pretty simple: your computer would talk to other computers and swap data with them, usually one small chunk at a time. Connections were slow compared to now, with people using modems that managed 28.8, 33.6 and 56 kilobits per second downloads under ideal conditions, and which made 128kbps Jetstream ADSL seem fast. That was generally OK, because web pages were smaller and their content usually arrived from one server (or set of servers) that were on the same network.

Today, web pages are made for high-res screens on fast devices and broadband connections that are 100 times or more faster than dial-up and first generation ADSL services.

We all expect, and companies provide, way more functionality than before. Developers use large scripts that often connect to servers not just on different networks, but in different countries, often far away from New Zealand. High definition images and video as well as advertisements all soak up bandwidth. The changes have happened incrementally (think how your own employer has upgraded their website progressively over the years).

Like most other internet providers, we slow down connections on our capped plans to 64 kilobits per second, slightly faster than dial-up, when you go over the monthly data cap. What you’ll find if this happens is that you can do basic tasks like email. Some websites will load, but others may not load at all. This is because the sites have just too much going on for a slow connection to cope with. And while your bank’s website may have worked a few years ago on dial-up, increased security features and functionality mean that it most likely won’t work on dial-up any more.

At this point you have choices. Firstly, you should know about your predicament well in advance because we provide warning emails when you reach 50, 80, 95 and 100 per cent of your data cap. You can also keep track of your usage in real time through our customer portal This is the place where you can buy extra data 24/7 using a credit card to get you going again. Because we never want you to be in a position where you can’t get back up and running, the customer portal will ALWAYS work at full speed even when you’re capped so you can buy data without any drama.

Better still though, you can phone us (up to 9pm weeknights, 9 – 5 weekends and public holidays) and increase your plan in the current month. For just a fraction of the credit card purchase prices, you can get a hefty data upgrade and we’ll charge you the extra on next month’s bill.

So there’s no need to suffer the dreaded dial-up, but if you do meet it face to face, at least you have an idea now about why some things will still work, and others not. The best advice we can give though, is to keep an eye on the usage graphs in your customer portal – or better still, change to Unlimited. With Christmas coming and lots more people in your house, you can always make the change for a short while then change back down again – we are super-flexible and it won’t have any effect on your contract ?