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Life after dial-up

Tim Gibbon (Social Media Portal (SMP)) - 02 September 2013

Digital life after BT closes down its dial-up internet service


BT, the telecoms company retired its dial-up internet service last weekend (Sunday, 01 September) citing a lack of usage from its UK customers.

Dial-up or narrowband, is a technology using aspects of the public switched telephone network (PSTN) that can be used to establish access to the internet. This enables users to go online to surf webpages and download emails before broadband became available. Dial-up users are required to use a modem (separately or via PCs) to dial a telephone or fax line to access the internet via an internet service provider (ISP).

As broadband became more widely available and more affordable, people in the UK opted to switch for quicker connections to allow access to richer data and information at faster speeds.

BT logo

Speaking to UK broadcaster BBC, BT said that a only a small number of its customers used its dial-up service and informed them first about the service closure in May and June this year. Shutting down its dial-up service means approximately 1,000 people who live in remote areas would not be able to move to broadband as their phone line was incapable of supporting the technology the BBC reports.

It's unknown how many people still use dial-up in the UK due the growing number people using it less according the UK regulator Ofcom, although in 2010 it said approximately 800,000 were using it.

Although BT claims that 6.8 million of its broadband customers had switched to much faster connections, experts believe that people living in remote rural areas will not be able to access adequate broadband services now BT is not an option.

"They will be too far from the telephone exchange to get any meaningful broadband," Oliver Johnson, chief executive of broadband consultancy Point Topic explained to the BBC. "The distance means that the broadband signal degrades," added Johnson.  

Those who decide to remain with dial-up would still be able to get such services from BT via its Plusnet subsidiary.  "No-one is being left without the option of an alternative service," said a BT spokesman. Although reporting of BT hanging up on its dial-up internet services is prominent and its customers were informed earlier in the year, information explaining the situation on its website is limited. Its site also appears to still offer guidance on how to still connect using its dial-up service (at the time of publishing). 

Often associated with slower speeds, connection dropouts and limited access to many rich content websites that are commonplace today BT closing down dial-up maybe seen as inevitable and a sign of times. However, an important and even a back-up to broadband services by what is seen as a major UK telecoms player will strike cord with a generation of early internet adopters. Whether 4G can fill the gap for remote rural areas and provide a quick enough service as current limited dial-up alternatives fade away remains to be seen.

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