56K Modem Info

56K modems - Some info and insight
Click on one of the topics below:

Background Info on the 56K story
Surfari Internet's Support
56K Connection Rates
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) and Answers

Equipment installed at Surfari.Net

The access server that is presently in service is the VersaNET ISP Accelerator, a complete package that supports the latest ITU V.90 (Accepted 56k Standard) as well as Rockwell/Lucent Kflex protocols. Not unlike the nature of the internet, they are now out of business but the equipment continues to operate well with our loving care.

Surfari Internet's Support

During initial installation of 56K modem support, all 5Cities/SLO Surfari Internet customers were welcome to try out the 56K modem bank (without charge) for the entire month of November, 1998. The main reason for this is that not all 56K modems are as compatible as we would like (as we have learned) and we didn't want you to pay for a service that won't work with your equipment.

After November we added a new service account, 56K Unmetered Access, for $23.95 a month ($15.95 for 'metered' service, 20 hours/month). We did not charge existing users any installation charges for this service. If you feel you can benefit from the service, please let us know and we will change your billing accordingly. For new customers, you are welcome to give the 56k modems a try (one or two calls) to see if it's worth your expense. We do monitor 56k usage and will charge accordingly if you continue to use it. Please refer to the Rates Page for the latest pricing of this service.

The 56K modem bank is programmed with the latest ITU V.90 standard for operating digital modems. You may have problems connecting (or not at all), this represents an incompatibility between your modem and the V.90 standard. You will need to work this out with your modem vendor, we cannot provide any assistance in this area, since all we can do is program our modem bank with the V.90 standard...there are no 'settings' we can tweak on our end. Usually the modem vendors have news groups or FAQ's (Frequently Asked Questions) at their site that can give you some 'tweaks' on your end to make it work better.

Connection rates to 56K service are affected by a number of factors. The most common factors are:

  • Phone Line Quality (noise, distance to your phone company Central Office)
  • Compatibility of your modem driver(s) to the V.90 standard (not all modems are 'compatible' as others)
  • Like all good things, a disclaimer is necessary:

    56K provides speeds significantly higher than 33,600 bps for over 80% of local phone lines. Typical speeds range between 40 and 50 Kbps.

    Most modems don't come with the 'latest' drivers (even though the box says they do). In that case, please refer to the following links for assistance:

    Modem Drivers for Windows

    Here's another useful site that you can go to, http://www.56k.com. It specializes in up-to-the-minute news on the 56K topic, as well as excellent tutorials...modem troubleshooters...and links!

    Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) and Answers

    I received an Error 631 when I connected, what does this mean?

    Some customers may receive a 'bad password' error when creating a new Dial-Up Networking connection. If you don't see your name/password box when first logging into Surfari.Net (your computer just dials and connects), then you need to turn on 'Prompt for Information Before Dialing'. Go to your Dial-Up Networking group and click on Connections, then Settings to turn on this prompt. Next time you connect you will be prompted with the name/password screen. Make sure you have a password entered (WIN95/98 may not put a password in there when you initially create the Dial-Up Connection).

    I won't be upgrading MY modem any time soon. Does this mean I should leave the same # on my dial-up connex, and proceed as before?

    Just leave things as they are, the 56K is an 'added service' and you won't even know it's there unless you make changes.

    What type of modem should I buy?

    We don't recommend any particular brand, because any number of hardware configurations could invalidate that recommendation. However, we do recommend purchasing a highly rated modem (check modem rating web sites or magazines for specifics), one of good quality and brand. Although we have many good stories about 'generic' brands, the manufacturer of these brands change from time to time and it's tough to recommend any particular one. If you have a specific modem that works well, let us know and we'll add it to the following list:

    A Note About External 56K Modems

    We've done some "digging" concerning External 56K modem connections and have found new information that could prove valuable to those that have one.
    External modems rely on a 'serial port' in your computer to communicate with. This 'serial port' (or COM port as it's called in most computer manuals) has to keep up with the flow of data to and from your modem. A device called a UART is the main controller on this 'serial port', which keeps up with the data flow and puts data in a temporary storage location (buffer) if it can't keep up with the flow.
    The invention of the 16550 UART chip improved high-speed connections for external modems, allowing speeds above 9600 baud. In some cases, in order to obtain the maximum connections with an external 56K modem (without the loss of data or need to re-transmit due to errors in dropping data), you will need to aquire an add-on hi-speed I/O port card.
    Unless the motherboard you have has a newer UART chip set on it, this add-on card will need to be purchased and installed (either replacing an existing I/O port card or by dis-abling the I/O port in your computer's BIOS settings). This is a task not easily undertaken by those not comfortable with moditying computer hardware or software settings. Improper setting could prevent you from using your modem port at all. We highly recommend you contact your computer dealer to see what you may have on your system and to perform this task for you if you do not feel comfortable doing it yourself.
    The chip types listed below are the newer ones designed for 56K digital connections and ISDN lines:

    16650 UART (note it is a "650")
    16C750 UART (this is the latest chip, a "750")

    "Is there any way to measure the speed of your Internet connection? I should be connected at 56 kbps, but the program reports 115 kbps. This is the speed at which my system communicates with the modem. This leaves me with no idea of the true speed of my connection."

    It is difficult to determine the true connection speed. In many cases, the displayed speed is merely the speed between the computer and the modem (as you described). We've even had tips from people who insist that their modems will connect at 115 kbps because they're looking at the speed of the system checking the communication port, rather than the actual connect speed.

    However, a short utility named DU Meter will display your connection speed. The DU Meter window sits on top so you can watch the speed as you download files. You'll find the program HERE.

    The registration fee is $10.

    I continually monitor my connection speed which consistently logs on at 42K. Why do you think this is so slow. Any suggestions?

    The average range of connection speeds we have seen go from 40K to 50K, your connection rate is not bad considering all the things that can affect connection rate.
    One suggestion we make is to ensure you have the absolutely latest version of modem driver for your modem. Whether you just bought it or not, generally the shipped versions of software are terribly out of date. Most modem manufacturers have a web site and have technical support dedicated to this issue.

    I was looking at 56K modems and noticed that some of them state 'Minimum System Requirements' specifically P-166mhz or above. Can you tell me what's up with that? If you have a P-133 relic like me, you can use these modems?

    You have what is known as a 'WinModem', which is nothing more than a PCI or Bus adapter. It doesn't have the "Modem" firmware on-board, like most modems, rather it uses the software driver to perform all the modem firmware functions within the realm of the computer operating system. Thus the need for a faster computer, since all the work is being done on the computer instead of inside the modem.

    I have seen these work quite effectively (I have one at home that I regularly connect at 53.3K with no noticeable computer 'slugishness', although I have a P-200 running it), although they are basically a "cheap" alternative to the real thing. But they will not work well with 'slower' computers...the only way to find out is to give it a try!

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