How to Boost Your Dial-Up Modem Connection Speed

DTP/Stone/Getty Images

Dial-up acceleration is based on two major components:

  1. Compression technology  (software robots that squeeze web page content, pictures, and downloadable files into smaller "packets")
  2. Proxy server networks  (groups of servers that are spread around the world, and handle the compression work for you)

How a ‘Dial-Up Acceleration’ Works 

  1. You get an additional subscription service each month  Dial-up acceleration networks do not replace your current ISP. Instead, they combine with your ISP. You would maintain your current ISP subscription but would add on a second subscription to the acceleration service for another six to ten dollars per month.
  2. You use a 'proxy' connection  Once subscribed to a dial-up acceleration service, your ISP will no longer connect to the Internet directly. Instead, your dial-up connection and ISP will connect to the acceleration servers. Those acceleration servers, in turn, visit web pages for you. Acting as intermediary machines between your ISP and the rest of the Internet, these acceleration servers are called “proxy” servers.
  3. The proxy servers learn your browsing habits Proxy acceleration servers try to learn your common web destinations. They then do "store-and-forward" transmission. This means that the servers will store logs of what web pages you prefer and visit those pages in advance for you, storing recent copies of those pages, ready to forward to your screen upon your request. While maintaining your privacy, this store-and-forward format helps to double, if not triple, your experienced web speed because the content is already waiting for you each morning.
  4. The proxy servers will compress your web and email content for you  While store-and-forward transmission does speed up your connection, the real speed gain is in compression algorithms. This is when the proxy acceleration servers use special proprietary technology to compress web pages and emails into smaller “packets”. If a web page is normally 800 kilobytes total size, compression can squeeze it down to perhaps 200 or 250 kilobytes. These smaller packets are sent to you through your dial-up modem, and then expanded back to full size on your computer with special software at your end. Back before 2009, this compression would normally have the side effect of poorer quality graphics. Now, compression technology has improved dramatically, and graphics do not degrade significantly when compressed-decompressed.
  5. Getting dial-up acceleration to work at your end  This is the easy part. Once you subscribe to a dial-up acceleration service, the only real work you have to do is download and install a small client software package. That little software will handle the decompression and compression, and your proxy’s technical connection. Once that little software is in place, your web surfing and email habits will be the same, just faster. There will be no other extra work to you other than to pay your acceleration subscription fee each month. If your ISP does not already provide you with accelerated dial-up, you may choose to get dial-up acceleration as an individual subscriber.

Tech note: the compression-decompression process also applies in the “up” direction. This means: when you upload files or send emails and attachments or text messages, those items also get compressed-and-decompressed for faster transmission.

Content That Will Be Compressed for You

  • Web page text and general formats
  • Graphics on web pages (.jpg and .gif files)
  • Regular downloadable files: screen savers, shareware, .pdf files.
  • Email and file attachments
  • Most banner advertisements and most Flash .swf movies

Content That Will Remain Uncompressed

  • Secure password-protected content (https:// web pages) does not get compressed. This includes your bank account login, eBay login, Paypal login, online financial transactions, and connecting to your company extranet. This is because compression can open up holes in the encryption and allow hackers in to read your passworded pages.
  • Streaming video and audio do not get compressed. Streaming content is usually movies, animations, and music that is beamed to you as you watch it or listen to it; e.g. internet radio stations.
  • FTP uploading and downloading do not get compressed. Nor does any other web connection that does not use your IE or Firefox browser. This would include antivirus updates, streaming newscasts, and most other software connections.

Currently, there are two major dial-up acceleration services that are readily available in North America: Propel and Proxyconn.

  • Propel  Propel is out of San Jose, California. They are a very big contender in the Dial-up Acceleration industry and have won many large-scale contracts with hundreds of ISP’s around the world. Their subscription fee is around $5 to $7USD per month, and they promise a 5x increase in your dial-up connection speed.
  • Proxyconn  Also out of California, Proxyconn charges a subscription fee nearly identical to that of Propel. Proxyconn does also offer added features like spam and malware protection to its subscribers. They also claim to increase your dial-up modem speed by up to 6x normal rates.