Dial-up Internet; not dead yet

Sections: Macintosh/Apple Hardware, Originals, Peripherals

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Did you think dial-up Internet was dead? Think again. Quartz’s Dan Frommer reports that, amazingly, AOL still has 2.3 million dialup subscribers, and they’re turning a profit for the online pioneering company—in fact, most of its profits.

I had thought I was one of the last dial-up holdouts, and not by choice. Broadband availability didn’t make it to my neck of the woods until the late summer of 2009, prior to which I was stuck with dial-up service over poorly-maintained rural copper phone lines and antiquated switchers and modem banks, yielding throughput of 26,400 Kbps on good days. Needless to say, I was one of the first in line to get wireless broadband service hooked up five years ago next month.

Apple usb dial up modemJust in time, too. I had purchased a Core 2 Duo unibody MacBook earlier that year, complete with a then-obligatory Apple USB phone modem, but OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard turned out to be the last OS X version with drivers for that modem, which were dropped from OS X 10.7 Lion in October, 2010 and subsequent versions. And of course, phone modems were never available for iPads and iPhones.

Over the next several years, I would still resort to dial-up during Broadband system outages, but my friend who was letting me piggyback her dial-up account during emergencies finally switched to wireless broadband. Dial-up was getting intolerably slow toward the end, anyway.

However, 2.3 million subscribers—paying an average of $20.86 per month—evidently still think dial-up is tolerable. I would expect that most of them get 56,000 Kbps throughput, which would help. That’s down from 21 million a decade ago, according to Frommer, but with most network setup costs long since amortized, it was also enough to generate about one-third of AOL’s $607 million in sales last quarter, and $143 million in operating profit.

Who knew?

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