Dial Up Internet Service Providers Choose Value Added Dial Up or DSL Internet Instead
Much like our readers, I occasionally search the Internet for truly free dial up Internet service access. If you keep coming up with irrelevant search results or can’t seem to find a good free dial up Internet connection, you are not alone. Searching the major web site directories and discussion forums are equally discouraging. So I decided to take a step back and look at the big picture. This article briefly compares free dial up Internet service providers to available subscription based unlimited dial up Internet and DSL Internet service providers.
Free Dial Up Internet Service Providers – Do They Exist?
The short answer is "yes." The long answer is "yes…but very few exist, your access numbers are limited, there’s little or no support, and you will more than likely experience disconnects and slow dial up Internet connection speeds."
I can recall a day when NetZero CD’s where available at every computer retail outlet and how cool it was to surf the Internet for free. Somehow it felt great to pay nothing for dial up Internet service. A rebel of sorts, though at that time the Internet was nothing compared to today’s multi-media rich entertainment resource. You can still access the free NetZero dial up Internet service here on the Internet Service Deals web site. Most of the other free Internet service providers I managed to scrape up have been discontinued for financial reasons, provide very few Internet access numbers, or operate on a "free trial" or "donation" basis.
In my opinion, most of the ISP’s I found via search are not truly free dial up Internet service providers. The once free dial up Internet service providers have begun charging for services due to maintenance cost increases. Some ISP’s still say they’re free, but their free dial up Internet service has given way to a free week or month instead. Alternatively, the free dial up Internet service is no longer maintained, merely an advertising method to get you to find the ISP, then upgrade for better Internet access. I wouldn’t fault any business for trying to provide free dial up Internet access. The free business model just doesn’t seem to work. Here are a few cases which support my research on the elusive free dial up Internet service.
Community Based Free Dial Up Internet Access — Los Angeles Free Net
The Los Angeles Free Net is an example of what I would call communities or companies trying to help out, but falling short of expectations. Los Angeles Free Net is a volunteer operated non-profit organization whom among other services offers low cost dial up Internet access. At first glance, temptation sways towards "hey, I found one, a non-profit even!" But upon closer review, the referenced LAFN Donation Schedule implies that you must pay $50/year before being granted free dial up Internet access. Here’s an excerpt from the Los Angeles Free Net website:
"The annual registration fee [donation] helps the LA Free-Net pay for connection costs, system maintenance, and Internet access. This fee also makes it possible to add equipment, telephone lines and improved services. Regular [Free] and SlipStream Dial-In sessions are limited to one hour on weekdays from 5:00 A.M. to midnight. Longer sessions are available at other times."
— LAFN.org, 9/6/06"
The above excerpt is shown in full because of a particular point that I want to make, and will continue to discuss further: It costs more money than users realize to provide acceptable dial up Internet services. On top of hardware upgrades, system maintenance and ever increasing bandwidth demands, Internet security threats and identity protection are becoming a resource drain to dial up Internet service providers. Internet users want and need more than one hour of service per day during normal usage hours. I’d like to see someone shop online, do a little price comparison research, for anything in one hour or less using the LAFN free dial up Internet service.
Let’s look at the next free dial up Internet service provider I found while conducting my research.
Discontinued Free Dial Up Internet Connection— Seven Midgets
I believe that most of the so called free dial up Internet service providers initially had good intentions. Whether a young entrepreneur decided to take a risk in a field they love, or an existing business decided one day to provide free dial up Internet service to the community or employees out of the kindness of their hearts. However they rationalized the move, the examples of failure are plentiful. Seven Midgets free dial up Internet service also landed on our research list of web sites offering free dial up Internet access. Our quote from their web site sums up Seven Midgets’ noble effort to date:
"We are suspending our free dialup access offering for now. Market conditions and increased costs of support and maintenance were putting undue strain on our budget. We did keep our free dialup program up and running for almost a year and we will bring it back as soon as it is economically viable.
— SevenMidgets.com, 9/6/06"
Is free dial up Internet service dead, or will some business or some technology come forth and revitalize the effort? Free internet access doesn’t seem to make sense given the cost to provide and protect these services. At least, there has to be a way to balance advertising revenues without disrupting the Internet user’s session. One possible new entry into the ISP market has some serious cash in their pockets, and a business model that makes cents…or $3.8 billion in cash and equivalents on hand as of December 31, 2005. Who is this behemoth, and why on earth would they venture to provide free Internet access to the masses you ask?
Google Free Wi-Fi Internet Service — Mountain View, California
Late in August of this year, Google Inc. announced plans to offer free high speed Internet access to everyone in it’s California hometown. According to Google’s press release, Mountain View, California will become the largest US city with totally free high speed Internet service. Will this service roll out to other cities? It doesn’t seem possible in the short term. I like to think of what google is doing as their experiment in cutting out the middle man – telephone and cable companies alike. If the Wi-Fi system works, and if it’s profitable, then I would expect Google to expand the service rapidly.
The "middle man" is any existing dial up, DSL Internet, or cable Internet service provider. Obviously Google has chosen Wi-Fi or wireless internet connections because there implies the ability to avoid laying wires of any type. No need for heated negotiations with regionalized telephone and cable telecom operations, but there’s more to this story. Those who understand the Google business model know, and can read in Google’s annual reports, Google’s annual advertising revenues totaled over $6 billion for year ended December 31, 2005. Advertising revenue? Yes you may know Google as a cool search engine, but their business model is purely to sell advertising space. And they do it very well. From 2003 to 2004 Google’s advertising revenue doubled. Then just about doubled again from 2004 to 2005. Net Income for year ended 2005 was 24% of revenues – that’s quite a health business.
Let’s quickly compare Google’s financial results to that of United Online, Inc. the owner of both NetZero and Juno dial up Internet service brands. United Online, Inc. boasts annual revenues from dial up Internet service of approximately $520 million annually. Though United Online’s revenues and net income are strong for the Internet services industry, their net income is 9% of revenues, wimpy when compared to Google’s 24%. United Online’s asset base is also very respectable, but much smaller than Google’s. Total assets at year end 2005 were $521 million for United Online versus Google’s total assets of $10.3 billion. What will Google do with all of that money?
Value Added Internet Services For Under $15/month
While we all wait and watch the Google Wi-Fi project, those in need of immediate dial up Internet access should focus on price-per-value. Do not continuously search for the lowest price or free dial up Internet service access, you will waste your time and possibly risk your privacy.
Conclusion – Search For Low Cost, Value Added Internet Services
The examples I’ve discussed paint the picture of demise for the free dial up Internet service providers in the short term. The Internet today is not the same low bandwidth, 28k, boring text based medium it once was. For the price of one movie ticket a month you can get unlimited high speed Internet access or value added dial up Internet services. Free dial up Internet service providers generally fail, and can not provide the needed security, connection time, nor customer service that we tend to expect from the industry. My advice is this – skip the movie ticket and enjoy unlimited Internet access instead. From an entertainment perspective, your $15/month will keep you smiling all month long, unlike a short lived 2 hour movie. Popcorn and soda are cheaper at home too.
— Internet Service Deals