The slow death of dial-up: 2 percent of us still use AOL

August 7, 2013
(Scott Eells/Bloomberg)
(Scott Eells/Bloomberg)

It's easy to take Netflix and Spotify for granted at a time when fiber optic cables can send HD movies and high-quality audio to our computers in minutes. But according to AOL's second-quarter earnings report Wednesday, more than 2.5 million people still subscribe to the Internet company's services.


That represents a drop of 15 percent from the same quarter last year, but it's still a hefty portion of the country. There are roughly 114 million households in the United States. Do a bit of math, and that works out to roughly 2.2 percent.

Not all of those people are even aware that they're still paying, which makes AOL's continued earnings from dial-up services a particularly genius form of memory-hole leeching. (As you'll see from the update below, however, dial-up isn't the only service that's captured by the enigmatic term "AOL-brand access subscriber.")

But then there are those who either lack access to broadband or can't afford what's in their area. About 17 percent of dial-up users say there's no broadband where they live; 35 percent say the price needs to fall before they'd adopt it.

Not everyone contained in AOL's 2.5 million subscriber figure lives in rural or poor areas. Still, it's a good reminder that even as much of the country adopts newer broadband technologies, there's a risk that some might get left behind.

Update: An AOL spokesperson responds to an earlier query, clarifying that the subscriber figure includes both dial-up and "other products and services."

Brian Fung covers technology for The Washington Post, focusing on telecom, broadband and digital politics. Before joining the Post, he was the technology correspondent for National Journal and an associate editor at the Atlantic.
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