Dial up is also back up

by Steve Blum • , ,

They didn’t get the memo about the logo either.

AOL is bringing 2.2 million dial up Internet access subscribers to the Verizon dance. That legacy business generates more than half a billion dollars a year for the former king of online access, according to its fourth quarter 2014 earnings release.

The persistence of the dial up market has been largely attributed to two factors over the past few days: lack of broadband access in rural areas and the appeal of a low, $20 per month price to low income households.

It’s probably true that people who live beyond the reach of DSL or cable modems and/or are budget conscious account for most of those subs. But there’s a third category: travellers who either don’t take Internet availability for granted or regularly spend time at locations without it.

That’s why I still pay to keep a dial up account active. Mine isn’t as pricey as AOL’s, at least on a monthly basis. I have a grandfathered NZ$5 a month plan with the company formerly known as Telecom New Zealand and now known as Spark. I originally got it because when I first started travelling there, it was the only way to get Internet access in nearly the entire country. Now, that’s not true – arguably, New Zealand is doing a better job at bringing modern broadband to rural areas than the U.S. But the plan also includes membership in an international network of dial up access points, including the U.S., although per-minute fees can add up when it’s actually used.

Of course, that means I have to travel with a USB zip modem, and these days I rarely remember to throw it in the bag unless I’m heading to a seriously remote part of the world like, say, Lake San Antonio, California. But knowing I can do it if necessary brings peace of mind, and that’s worth a few bucks a month.