Reasons for poor dialup speeds
Dialup modem connections, unlike most data links today, are analog connections. Rather than using digital ones and zeros to communicate, modems take the digital output from your computer and convert it to analog signals in the same frequency range as speech and use voice-grade telephone lines to send these signals to equipment at our end that decodes these sounds and converts them back to digital mode.
Most of the time this works very well. Modem connections aren't nearly as fast as cable or DSL connections, but they can be quite fast enough for email and web browsing, at least as long as everything is working correctly. Sometimes, though, you'll find that your connections seem very slow, and you may even have trouble connecting in the first place - you may have to dial in several times before you get a solid connection.
Slow modem connections are much less common today, now that much of the telephone system uses fiber optic cables, but the weak link is still the wiring at your house or apartment, and on your street. Much of the time this wiring is copper-wire based, and during wet weather water can get in the lines and create partial short circuits. Signal levels will degrade, and signals from adjacent lines (and even power lines) can leak in, interfering with your connection. Because modem data connections are vulnerable to degradation from even small amounts of interference, you may find that voice connections on your line seem fine but modem connections aren't - this happens because voice connections are very tolerant of noise and errors. Unless the noise is really bad, your ears will deal with it and you generally won't notice it.
Most of the time, these slow connections are temporary - they'll follow a day or two of rain or melting snow, and when the phone lines in your neighborhood dry out things will go back to normal. Sometimes they don't go back to normal, and the connections stay slow. When this happens, let us know by sending email to email@example.com - we'll be able to look at the connection reports for your account and get an idea of what seems to be happening. We'll suggest a few simple things, like temporary unplugging other devices like answering machines, fax machines, etc. from your line, in case one of these is the culprit. We'll also suggest calling one or more of our alternate phone numbers - if the problem is in the telephone network, routing the call differently may help.
If none of these experiments help, you may have to call your telephone company to report the problem. Call their repair service number and report difficulty with modem connections. The telephone company will be able to run some basic tests on your line, and will dispatch a repair technician if they see something they don't like.