It took an entire week for me to get HL2 installed and verified on a 56K modem. I was pretty salty about it at first, but that melted away when I was finally able to start playing the game. The connection speed combined with the server load just made that experience completely miserable.
I think I was lucky enough to have gotten dsl by then. Gaming on a 56k was miserable. I also had to use the junky free/cheap ISPs like netzero, bluelight etc.