Archives » March 9th, 2006

March 9, 2006

High-Speed for the Mother-In-Law

For years my mother-in-law has been on dial-up. It’s never really been worth it to move her to high-speed access, because she hardly uses the computer to begin with, and she doesn’t want to have to pay the extra fees. And that’s fine for her, but it’s a torture for us whenever we go over to her house and try to do anything online. So we’ve been keeping an AOL account active for her (yes, AOL. I wouldn’t dream of trying to teach her the intricacies of using anything else for e-mail) all this time, and having to sit through the hell that is dial-up every time we visit.

But then a couple of things happened, both conscious decisions by AOL to get people like us to do what we did. First, AOL raised their prices again, this time to $25.90 per month for dial-up. (Yes, I know. Ouch indeed.) But then they struck deals with several DSL providers to get the price of DSL+AOL down to $25.90 per month. So see what they did there? They just took price out of the equation. They just eliminated the number one reason that’s keeping people from upgrading to high-speed, the notion that it costs more. AOL on the surface seems to be losing out on this deal, because instead of getting 100% of your monthly fee, they’re now getting the short end of a 33/66 split with the local phone company. But I think they’re just desperate to get people off of dial-up, because their modem banks have to be one of the largest expenses on their books. They’re fed up with being in the ISP business and they want to move into the content business, and that means doing whatever it takes to discourage people from connecting to them directly. Make the local ISPs do all the hard work. And if you make price a non-issue for people who are thinking about switching, you’re going to get a lot more of them to do it.

Now yeah, there’s lot of asterisks to this plan, and enough small print to deforest Bolivia. AOL is hideously overpriced anyway compared to PPP providers like PeoplePC and local ISPs, and these DSL prices are promotional offers that go up after a year. And you can get DSL by itself for about half the price of this AOL deal. But I’d wager that anyone still using AOL in the year 2006 is doing so because they just can’t handle anything else. The idea that they could start using a PPP connection and POP mail overnight woefully overstates their comfort level with the technology. These folks are going to be AOL customers for life. AOL just wants them to be more cost-effective customers.

So, the end result of all of this is that we signed up with AOL, who put in a call to Nevada Bell/SBC/AT&T and got us hooked up with DSL. She was activated today, and after the holy hassle of trying to do a self-installation without using the SBC/Yahoo CD, only to find out that the SBC/Yahoo CD contains special code that activates the modem, so therefore you have to use the CD, which decided to hang up at the exact same point five times in a row so I never really knew if I was doing it right, I got everything running for her. I also put in a wireless router, which means that not only can we get high-speed on her computer, we can also get it on our laptop, and we left the WiFi open so that if any of the other people in her trailer park have great-grandchildren who visit they can use the connection too.

So now the last frontier has been breached, and I have high-speed everywhere I go. Because you know it was purely a selfish act. She doesn’t care if she has DSL; with the amount of time she’s on the computer, the only difference she’ll notice is that the little AOL running man zips across the logon screen faster.

And, she can talk on her phone while she’s on AOL. That, right there, is heaven enough.