More than 2 million people still pay for AOL dial-up

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I don’t know anyone who does it, but perhaps you do. I have a distant memory of disks arriving in my mailbox for free, a whiny noise that sounded like it was coming from an alien drone and thinking: “Why do people do this?” But perhaps you’re one of the 2.1 million people who still have AOL dial-up service and actually pay for it. AOL’s quarterly earnings report, published Friday, revealed discreetly that 2.1 million people are still dialing up and paying AOL around $20 a month for the privilege of accessing the Internet. Dial-up is infernally slow. It’s about as narrowband as a contemporary connected mortal could imagine and far beyond anything they could tolerate. Just to compare, in January the FCC redefined broadband as 25 megabits per second, though the average speed in the US is 10 Mbps. Dial-up is 56 kilobits per second. (As a quick refresher: kilo- anything is much smaller, or in this case slower, than mega- anything.) About 70 percent of Americans have broadband at home, as of a September 2013 survey, the latest figures from the Pew Internet Research project. So who might these people be? I have contacted AOL to ask whether it could offer a breakdown and will update, should I hear. One is left, therefore, to speculate. An obvious view would be that many of these people are senior citizens. For them, perhaps, the price is comfortable. Even more comfortable is the security of knowing how something works because they’ve…

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