People dialing up the Net on their modems are twice as likely to get connected as they were a year ago, according to the latest figures by Net measurement company Inverse Network.
In fact, call success rates were at an all-time high for the month of August. The average call failure rate for major ISPs fell below 4 percent, the study said.
Even America Online, once plagued by dial-up problems, got an A-plus for its business-hour call rate, although it slipped to a B for evening hours.
"I think what [the study] indicates is that over the last year the ISPs have really gotten their act together in terms of turning on reliable service," said Chris Roeckl, research manager for Inverse.
Compared to 1997, complaints about network outages and busy signals have dropped precipitously. That's the good news.
The bad news is that this is traditionally a slower season, so good call rates are probably due in part to the fact that fewer people are clamoring to get online.
And, Roeckle added, the figures, however good, should be put in perspective. While a 96 percent call success rate is high, it pales in comparison to the reliability that most people get from their phone companies.
"Do we want the Internet to be pervasive and reliable as Pacific Bell Network?" Roeckle said. "Then there's still a long way to go."
Inverse has previously issued reports saying that although call rates have improved dramatically, Web sites have gotten proportionately more complex, leading to longer load times and longer waits.
"Throughput," as the time it takes to download a Web page is called, is also improving, but still has a long way to go.