Tuesday, August 05, 2008

AOL: Will Dial-Up Internet access go bye-bye?

AOL may shed the dial-up business that, in the mid 1990s became the core of its operation, in the “good old days” when AOL, like Prodigy, offered proprietary content, lively message boards, and dial-up (even at lower speeds like 2400 baud) as the portal to the Internet. Later in the 90s, it turned to ordinary http protocol content, and advertising became more critical. Eventually, a couple years ago, if started to offer free email through existing Internet connections. Now it might abandon or at least sell the dial-up operation.

In the 90s, AOL’s own operation was still effective in delivering news. I found out about the Oklahoma City attack when I came from work with an AOL headline. One year it played an April Fool’s joke claiming that life on Jupiter had been found. The service was expensive, with usage-based charges, one time running up to $67 for me, before taking on fixed rates. Today, it still charges for the separate dial-up and mass storage capabilities, a practical backup to access through existing Internet service in case of cable disruption.

In some areas that still do not have cable or broadband service, or where it is unreliable, and where secure wireless is also unreliable, residents might still depend on dialup at 56K to get Internet access.

In fact, I often used the 56K dialup as late as 2005. In practice, a lot of content (other than video) worked. In those days, I did most of my own website updates with WS-FTP and generally files of up to 500K would transfer with acceptable efficiency at that speed. However, massive security updates from Microsoft and anit-virus upgrades from McCaffee sometimes take way too long at these speeds. In Minneapolis, in a high rise apartment, I used a second phone line for most access, and did not start to use broadband until 2002, because until then it was not as reliable.

The news story appears in the Business Section of the August 5 Washington Post, by Zachary A. Goldfarb and Frank Ahrens, is titled “AOL Is Moving Closer To Jettisoning Dial-Up”, link here.

The story emphasizes the need of making reliable and secure broadband and wireless available everywhere. For example, there is a recent dispute over wireless access on the Navajo reservation. On August, 2, Holly Watt had reported on p A2 of The Washington Post, “FCC Tries to Avert Threatened Satellite Cutoff”, link here.

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