AOL Tries To Prove That Its Dialup Customers Really Are Suckers

from the you've-got-idiots dept

For years, AOL has struggled to transform itself out of a “dialup” service provider. Every few months the company would announce some great new strategy to get people to sign up for AOL’s broadband, rather than ditching AOL completely for some much cheaper broadband offering. This has involved story after story after story after story after story about how AOL was finally going to work with its sister broadband provider, Time Warner Cable/Roadrunner. Instead, not much happened. What usually happened, though, was some sort of reversal of course months later. If there were ever an example of a company that couldn’t agree on a strategy, AOL would be it. Hell, in the midst of all these reports about the importance of broadband, the company even decided at one point that it was getting out of the broadband business. A year ago, there were reports that AOL had finally recognized that people could get DSL for less than AOL’s dialup and decided to lower its dialup prices. This lasted for all of about a month, before someone internally freaked out and quietly raised the prices back up. Apparently, that didn’t shake all that many customers off of dialup, so the company figured that if they’re stuck with people who like paying more for dialup they might as well jack up the prices even higher and (at the same time) make it clear just how clueless their own customers really are. So, the latest strategy is to raise dialup prices for AOL so they’re the same as broadband prices. Yes, it’s as if they’re mocking their own customers for not moving up to broadband.

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Comments on “AOL Tries To Prove That Its Dialup Customers Really Are Suckers”

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A Funny Guy / The Poison Pen says:

Re: Re: Beautiful

Jane, I find it utterly amazing that you live in Washington DC, in the burbs of all places and can’t get high speed internet.

Personally, I’d be raising so much hell they could hear me on capital hill.

I’ve heard of some crazy shit but people living in our capital can’t get high speed internet…

Dear Sweet Judas Priest……

kevin (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Beautiful

i live in rural new york and we didn’t have dsl and i started taking it to the people .i went to every bar and door to to door with a petition to get dsl from our local fone co. they responded by saying ok. took them 6 months but the thing is you don’t have to do it alone. go to your friends, neighbors,and coworkers every one you see and make a difference.every one i asked signed up even people who have nothing to do with pc’s.
i urge you to never stop pushing, and the more people we get off aol the better,,also i am not high on peoplepc that program is for suckers to as is netzero. the both add there own software. all you should need is a dailup number . not any stupid screen stealling browser.

anonymous Coward says:

Re: Beautiful

Their broadband isn’t in ALL areas. I think what AOL did is wrong and not only bad business… it’s also a poor example of how to operate. I could see them wanting to switch over. But drop the dialup all together and just offer service to your broadband customers don’t hurt the dialup users in the process. They will be your prospective broadband users in the near future.

Ben McNelly (user link) says:

sick sick, AO'Ls

Why oh why must they propigate thier infernal spam to broadband?!?
I knew it would happen but we have definantly seen the last phase (geez I hope anyway) of a shift towards it. The only thing more frustrating to visiting a friend or relitives house and helping solve a bonhead computer problem is finding AOL. Its like you smack your forhead because you left the window down to your car last night and it rained, and then opening the door to find skunks mating…
I realy wish AO’le haddn’t captured sooo many of our elderly and computer illiterate, bacause now they have had the chance to do thier brainwashing. On the flip side, thier own brainwashing and evil/unremoveable dail up software will probably keep quite a few from upgrading. To bad they still get the dough.

Bob says:


AOL’s strength is it’s community, and, of course, their infamous chat rooms. The prospect of broadband for many AOL junkies is secondary to that, meaning they likely won’t leave AOL for a faster connection, if it means having to give up that community. Otherwise, the supposed AOL exodus everyone keeps chirping about would have already occured long ago. I know of someone who refuses to leave AOL for that very reason.

The service could likely remain dial-up for the next ten years and still retain many of its customers, and from the looks of things it would seem they have now realized that. However, to keep existing customers and still attract new ones they need to focus both on reducing costs and expanding the AOL community, which is the core strength of the business.

Precision Blogger (user link) says:

AOL's strategy is better than you think!

You are missing an important part of AOL’s strategy. You think that people will cancel their expensive AOL dialup account and switch to broadband.
Have you ever tried to cancel an AOL account?
It used to be impossible to do this, except by canceling the credit card. Now it is slightly less impossible. Slightly.
– precision blogger

Moo says:

Re: AOL's strategy is better than you think!

Actually, I recently had to open an AOL dial-up account for my aunt so that she could download the software for another dial-up ISP. The only high-speed provider in her area was not taking new customers at the time. I do remember the days when cancelling an account was impossible, but I called to cancel after she was done and it was actually fairly easy (ignoring the sales pitches, of course). Perhaps AOL isn’t focusing so much on gaining revenue from non-customers any longer.

PC Guy says:

No Subject Given

It never ceases to amaze me how people are ripped off by AOL. I have several clients that are still using AOL. I can understand a few of them who use dialup AOL; primarily because no one else in their area provided a local number for dialing in until fairly recently… but what kills me is those who are paying $40/month for 256Mb DSL service AND AOL on top of it!

Yeah! Way to get a fast, reliable connection and then totally screw it up with AOL’s bloated software. Makes a lot of sense, doesn’t it.

Josh Tomaino (user link) says:

Possibly ingenius?

I don’t know, but maybe this is all some elaborate scheme to get people to actually switch from AOL? If people realize that they need to switch, what are they probably going to switch to? Roadrunner? Maybe. I think that’s a chance they’re going to take. It’s a win-win situation, as in the mean time, they get to suck out every last buck they can through those who are either stuck with AOL, or too slow to change.

Dax (user link) says:

AOL helps old people

AOL is 10 times easier to use than any other way of connecting to the net that there is. It has all of the web browsing, instant messaging, emailing, and spam/antivirus protection built in so that you don’t have to do any extra work. AOL’s main market nowadays, the old people, can hardly use a keyboard (let alone install and maintain a broadband connection, email, instant messaging, and spam/antivirus software.) And quite frankly, these people don’t need a faster connection because they don’t use their computers to do as much as we do. They just want a way to email their friends, read the news, and maybe play some online scrabble. I’m pretty sure that none of your grandparents play videogames or download music. The elderly were used to doing things the same way for their whole lives and then all of this technology came and shifted the balance. I think that?s its remarkable that they can do this much as it is. So if that means paying a couple extra bucks, then I’m sure that?s not a very big deal.

Professor HighBrow says:

Re: AOL helps old people

AOL is 10 times easier to use than any other way of connecting to the net… the old people, can hardly use a keyboard (let alone install and maintain a broadband connection, email, instant messaging, and spam/antivirus software.)

You have a point, indicating ease of use… However, it is not the fault of older generations that AOL wants to raise their prices beyond a fair market value. Do you think that all old people are rich and stupid?

Yes, AOL does take care of many of the common tasks that a regular broadband user either DIY’s or pays an arm and a leg for the right software. The point here is that 56kps dialup is becoming similiar in price to actual broadband. This indicates AOL’s lack of regard for their customers (not that they ever had any to begin with.)

So, no; it’s not a “big deal,” but it IS taking advantage of the customer, and that’s the point of dissent here.
Just another example of faceless corporate America [I.e. AOL-Time Warner] taking advantage of their own customers. Not that their the only ones…

–Prof. HighBrow

Ron says:

Re: Re: AOL helps old people

“The point here is that 56kps dialup is becoming similiar in price to actual broadband”

Just because a technology is considered obsolete does not immediately relegate it to bargain bin status.

Ever tried to buy a NEW dot matrix printer these days? The prices are absurd, and often times surpass an inkjet or even some laser models. What about a fax machine or a film camera? Those technologies are considered obsolete as well, yet the prices of both continue to soar.

The issue, I believe, is really just a matter of supply and demand. Less people are using dial-up to access the internet these days, so the cost per user to sustain the equipment and infrastructure already in place must increase to meet that cost. Many of the larger services can usually get away with value pricing, whereas the smaller outfits rarely are able to compete on just price alone.

If AOL had half of its former users, it would still need to retain much of its technical staff to run the place, pay the content providers, and must also still pay rent on the same building it resides and houses its servers in, all on half the income from users. So yes, the cost per user would need to increase in such a case.

Shoal Creek says:

Re: AOL helps old people

The “AOL helps old people” at first appearance has some merit; however, AOL’s spyware/antivirus protection is second rate at best. That’s why I’m often helping older people learn to protect themselves. Furthermore, if all they use their computers for is email, a bit of web browsing, and playing a few online games, I will usually set them up on a newer Linux distro, configure it for them (including setting it up for automatic updates and making sure access policies and daemons are tightened down), give them a user login and password that they set themselves, and turn them loose. It works quite well. If they have some app that only runs in Windows, I basically do the same thing, give them a regular user account (not admin), set up a free Zone Alarm firewall, Avast Antivirus Personal Edition, and tell their computer to run a few anti-spyware tools in unattended mode on a weekly basis, and turn them loose. Of course, once every one or two years, the ones I help that are still running Windows get some infection that Avast didn’t yet know about, but that is much less often than most of these people were used to calling techs to fix their computer when they were on AOL.

Dale Pape says:

Re: AOL helps old people

Yeah you’re right! I am 71, call my son whenI have problems with AOL . Recently I bought a new Samsung HD television and a Denon receiver. It seems everything today is a bunch of confusion for us old Crocks. Lots of features and benefits and headaches to obtain them If another ISP had all the features and benefits that AOL offers I would switch in a heartbeat.

JBSmith78 says:

Where art thou Felony?

I’m guessing that the people who use AOL won’t mind getting charged a couple of extra bucks. The ones who can switch over from dial-up will probably be pleased with the speed improvements.

Oh and by the way, where is it written that a person can’t share bandwith that they’ve paid for? I know some ISP’s have IP constraints, but not all. Where art thou Felony?

Malcolm says:

Re: Where art thou Felony?

Actually, in most communities in the U.S., theft of wireless access comes under the category of “Theft Of Service” – it’s the same charge that you get slapped with for, say – borrowing Cable TV from your neighbor, or riding a subway without a token, or using an unauthorized decoder card to recieve free satellite television. You are receiving a service with a monetary value without paying the person providing the service, i.e. the broadband provider.

It’s an offense that is prosecuted pretty regularly, and pushed by the cable companies – have you ever seen one of their ads for amnesty periods, where you can have the cable guy legally connect you without them charging you with a crime?

It may not be a felony where you live, but there is probably a fine and some jail time coming if you get caught – unless you make a sweetheart deal with your neighbor. Then they are probably going to pay a fine – for reselling their service without a contract from the original provider.

Happy surfing!

Mike (profile) says:

Re: Re: Where art thou Felony?

Actually, in most communities in the U.S., theft of wireless access comes under the category of “Theft Of Service” – it’s the same charge that you get slapped with for, say – borrowing Cable TV from your neighbor, or riding a subway without a token, or using an unauthorized decoder card to recieve free satellite television. You are receiving a service with a monetary value without paying the person providing the service, i.e. the broadband provider.

Not quite. This one is DEFINITELY a big gray area for a very simple reason: when it comes to wireless, the person making use of the open network hasn’t done anything proactive. In fact, it’s the person who failed to secure their wireless network who has let their wireless radio waves travel onto the other person’s property.

When you steal cable, you are actively going onto their property and taking the cable.

When you’re on your own property (or public property) and wireless signals come to you you can make a very credible claim that there’s no theft of service at all. The service came to you. You did nothing to go and take it.

So, no, it might not be a felony. Nor, honestly, should it be.

As someone pointed out in the past, if you have a streetlight on in front of your house, but the light reaches the street, and I use that light to look at a map, have I stolen any service from you?

What if you set up a sprinkler system, and the water waters my grass as well? Have I “stolen” your water? Under your definition, I have.

Malcolm says:

Re: Re: Re: Where art thou Felony?

I agree this is a gray area – for another reason: prior case alw.

In the late 80’s and 90’s, it was decided that it was legal to intercept cordless phone traffic, because the interceptor was simply receiving radio waves that were traveling through the open air, and into his/her body. The courts famously decided that the individual had no control over that. In response came the first cordless phones with basic encyption.

The difference with wireless (at least, so far), has been that instead of simply receiving that radio signal, it is being actively used, modified, and returned – hijacked, if you will.

The sprinkler and streetlight analagies don’t include the active harnessing of that signal. If your sprinkler happens to water part of my lawn, that’s the price of doing business. If I go and adjust your sprinkler so that it waters my lawn, that’s theft of service. If the streetlight reaches the map I am looking at, that is the cost of doing business. If i take that streetlight and adjust it so that it illuminates my front porch for a party, that is theft of service.

By actively setting up your wireless car, casting about for an open signal, requesting an IP address (or reconfiguring your network settings) so that you can use that signal – these are all active actions, a deliberate attempt to get service for nothing. Also known as theft of service.

Michael says:

No Subject Given

I know a lot of people who could never leave AOL, because they just don’t understand computing. These people don’t understand the Internet and will instantly ignore anyone who says “broadband” or “DSL”. Worse, if convinced to make the jump to high-speed access, they’ll still stay with AOL, because they think AOL is the gateway to the Internet. These are the people who will stick around regardless of the rate, and they’re why AOL is still around today. Until the new breed of tech-savvy youth replaces them, AOL is here to stay. The afore-mentioned youth, however, should help us ween those AOL users off of dial-up sometime this decade.

The world is chaning, but living in a suburban area myself, bording on outright rural, there are a TON of these people out there. More than most technical folks could possibly fathom. I know a number of people who don’t have broadband, don’t know what it is, and thrive on AOL dial-up.

There’s a blue-collar class of people out there who just won’t catch on. And not because they’re stupid, but because they don’t care. Technology doesn’t interest a professional carpenter with a passion for hiking and ice-fishing. He just wants to work, play, and occasionally get online in the absolute simplest way possible, which of course is AOL dial-up, since they sent him 295 CD’s already and he has a working phone line.

Sam says:

AOL Rates

I agree…we are stupid. But we tried 3 other servers and AOL had so many features they didn’t have, so when will the other start offering an easier file system and other features. We have NO interest in chatting. Also, noticed the fee increase was listed at $24, but it’s now $25.90. We are SO SO STUPID. Too lazy to save on CD and try to find another

Wayne says:

Most people

I live in an extremely blue collar town and most people here don’t know what broadband is. In fact, a great number have never even used a computer. Around here, fishing and hunting is what people do for fun. They don’t care about technology one bit.

What ISP do 95%+ of the people use here? You guessed it, AOL dial-up. Most of them couldn’t figure out anything else. High speed is avaiable too, just nobody cares.

Makes it tough for me, being into computers in an area where nobody else is, having people look at me funny when i mention something like a “USB drive” or an “LCD monitor”, things people around here don’t know about. People around here consider a typewriter “high tech gadetry” and consider you a “computer hacker” if you can change the desktop wallpaper.

So I know about this blue collar class of people, Im around them every day and every night. I feel grateful to have highspeed in an area like this, because if I had to live on dial-up, I would go crazy.

I am in Fort Smith, Arkansas by the way.

Vic says:

Re: The Regular dialup barely works!

We need to have AOL investigated by 60 Minutes to see why this is not being addressed by AOL and they want us on Broadband in the worst way. I believe they intentionally slowed down dialup use to get us to change due to its slow transfer rate. AOL will be gone from my use very soon. I will not go another month with their service. I am also tired of talking to people for technical help who I can’t understand, nor can they understand a simple question. I am tired of repeating!

Vic says:

AOL Slow Dialup Are We Duped?

I too have noticed the slowdown in AOL Dialup using a modem and the quicjk response from AOL to switch to Broadband. I ask the technician at AOL if it was deliberate and there was no comment either way? Did I really expect one. I believe Elliott Spitzer in New York should investigate this one. I believe in my opinion AOL has much to gain. I will get rid of AOL and go to another service. I have got to the point where I hate AOL too, like many others. I noticed this even more when I switched to ver. 9 and began to complain to AOL. They thought I was stupid by telling me to go back to the older version. I believe it was to shut me up. I told them I was going to tell all my friends to go to LocalNet, where other friends had no problem. Guess what! AOL credited my account with $40, in part because they overbilled me! Not once, but twice! I would never pay more that $10 for their garbage…..

lex says:

Re: AOL Slow Dialup Are We Duped?

Did you get the under $10 permonth offer from aol?
People haven’t mentioned much about the other thing–not a sucker thing–that can keep people hooked. That’s the difficulty in accessing the personal filing cabinet (pfc) files outside the aol browser. Done manually, it’s no wonder that some would concede to overpaying…when, even valuing one’s time at, say, $15/hour, one might easily “lose” the annual aol subscription cost, just trying to “recover” access to “favorites” stored in pfc files.

carol colley (user link) says:

i cannot get connecitvitiy to aol

you have connecteed to the in teernet vai aol;sdailup network.youwcurrent plan does not include dailup connmectivity and youw session has endedif you have dailup service or a broadband connection through another provider interne first through yur open you r aol’s software thank you can you fix this for me . i am paid for aol sercvier now aol

lex says:

aol cheaper dialup really cheaper?

I’m one of those who can’t get high-speed.
Now aol is offering a dialup…for $9-and-change per month. But kinda vague on specifics. Now on version 9SE. But I wonder what I’d be giving up…that I’d have to purchase elsewhere? Like anti virus? Anti spam? Anti-spy? Etc? I wonder also if I’ll be relieved from connecting to local servers many times over, insisting on higher connection speed–while AOL host seems intent on dynamically downgrading fast dialup speeds to make space for broadband connections? What the real scoop about the new under $10 dialup pricing by aol?

Anonymous Coward says:

aol slower by the day on purpose

I myself cant help but believe that aol makes dial up slower by the day on purpose so you make the decision to pay even more for high speed. Im already waiting forever for a webpage to open but the real smack in the face is when the screen reads “done” and im staring at a blank page. On top of that, like a lot of people have already stated, high speed isn’t offered where I live unless you pay a pretty penny for it. Im also not the one paying the bill so its not my choice to switch to high speed. So for those of you who insist on calling others idiots when all people want to do is vent or get a little help, im sorry we cant be as smart or have the same options as you.

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