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Dial-Up's Downfall

Sunday, December 26, 2004; Page F05

It's the sound of dial-up Internet access we'll miss the most. That long, high-pitched screech followed -- usually, hopefully -- by a muffled explosion of static that signaled success.

With high-speed broadband services, alas, silent, round-the-clock connections to the Internet seem to be our future.

Subscribers to dial-up services have been in decline for several years now, but in 2004 the technology fell way, way out of vogue. Take America Online, the company that once embodied the possibilities of the World Wide Web. That company is losing dial-up subscribers to quicker or cheaper Internet services. In the past 12 months alone, AOL has lost about 2 million subscribers, many of them dial-up customers.

Use of dial-up connections peaked in 2001, with 52 million households, according to Jupiter Research. By the end of this year, that number is expected to drop to 48.5 million, and the exodus will likely continue. Jupiter predicts that by 2009, only 40.7 million homes will have dial-up. And by 2008, more than half of all connections will be broadband.

"It's like color TV versus black-and-white," said Joe Laszlo, a Jupiter analyst. "There is no reason in the world that you'd want to have a black-and-white TV if you can have a color one."

-- Ellen McCarthy

© 2004 The Washington Post Company