Wait, what? Dial-up?

Apparently about 1% of so of internet users in North America are using dial-up service. (Ask your grandpère or grandmère what that is.)

Amazon has their back (from a software listing in their store):

I can hear that modem whine …


I’m guessing those users are also very rural locations? do they still get AOL cd’s?

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I preferred the AOL diskettes. Everyone seemed to get one every few months and they would bring them to me “in case you need this”. I’d tape over the read only hole, slap a blank label on them, then give them back to many of the same people who would later ask “do you have a floppy I can borrow?”.

The CDs were worthless. The only thing you could do with them is use them as a rear view mirror if you sat with your back to the door.


LOL! I think those were floppies.

Dial-up tech is dead… until you find yourself in the middle of the night in a communications closet looking at a network switch with a corrupted filesystem. Then all of a sudden you become grateful that you once used serial line terminal emulators and know what zmodem is. The nostalgia of watching the bytes transmitted increasing very slowly as you upload a new IOS (not iOS) image is completely not worth it :laughing:


There are portions of the county I live in (rural Pennsylvania) which are still serviced by dial-up. In my experience, those who live in those areas mostly don’t have any internet access at all and have no interest in having any. But you may occasionally fine someone who still pays as much or more for dialup as I pay for mediocre cable internet. These same people generally do not have mobile phones, and even if they did, won’t get any signal at home anyway. In their case, satellite (HughesNet) is the best terrible option they have. Some just don’t see the point in upgrading from dial-up.

Of course, there are some who live in those same rural areas who are chomping at the bit for better options. But with the geography (foothills of the Allegheny Plateau), lower population density, and distance from populated areas, there is no good reason for a service provider to invest in the area.

I know the area well

Keep in mind there are also people who choose to live with no indoor plumbing and whose only source of heat is a wood-burning or coal-burning furnace that needs to be refilled throughout the day.

Thus I doubt you are going to convince them that broadband internet is an important utility.

Moreover not only are the houses often far apart, but also the terrain is an extreme challenge to any wired utility. It is often stunning and puzzling to ponder how houses in these areas were built in the first place.

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The same could be said for cell coverage in some areas not too long ago. But once the towers went up customers magically appeared. Congress has been “investing” in rural broadband for several years, the big providers take the money, and . . . people are still waiting. Yet, the same elected officials allow broadband monopolies to exist, as well as bans on municipal broadband. Personally I would love to see efforts like Starlink put the cable industry on the endangered corporation list.

I remember spending all night downloading upgraded BBS client software so it would support ZModem for file downloads. That’s back in the days when you could actually measure trivial protocol improvements in minutes or hours, rather than fractions of a second.

And then several years later helping customers manually configure modem init strings for Winsock. :smiley:

All kidding aside, I can’t imagine having to support dial-up users on the modern Internet. It was slow and painful 20 years ago, and it has to be even worse now. I’d hate to work at that callcenter.


I live in Norway and everyone has fast internet everywhere… with lots of challenging landscape, super low population density and harsh winters. It’s a decision to not have fast internet for everyone, nothing more.


Does the government in Norway subsidize the Internet companies in some way?

From a pure profitability standpoint, I know there are areas where the companies would be lucky to break even just with the cost of running the lines.

I would think so, but don’t know. I guess Norway has enough money for that. Then again, Sweden has a similar climate and population density and anecdotally I’d say it has equally good internet mobile and home.

Mobile internet is also cheaper here I think. I pay around 35$/month for limitless mobile internet all over Europe (actually my work pays that). I stream video on my commute quite often.

It’s an immense cultural difference

It’s hard for me to imagine two regions more different than Norway vs Appalachia


Is the physical environment in Appalachia just oddly shaped, or is it actively hostile toward running cable? I used to have a customer in rural Wisconsin where they had to run cable 400 feet through dense trees just to get from the road to his house. I think he had to pay out of pocket for the run, which makes at least some sense given the required work.

Appalachia is an enormous region – the mountainous sections alone exceed 730,000 square miles – almost 25% of the lower 48. Charactering any part of Appalachia in as indicative of the whole region is impossible. Like any other region in the world, some of it is poor, some of it is rich; some of it is urban, some of it is very rural.

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Some (all?) cable companies are reluctant to extend their network for just one customer. A web designer I used to work with struggled with satellite internet for years because she was too far away from her neighbor, the last cable customer on the line.

If the US congress wants to rein in some big tech companies I think they should start with the cable industry.

While it may be physically possible to provide service to all of Appalachia, it would be prohibitively expensive (tens of miles or more per household in some locations). But that assumes everyone connects. My expectation is that in some regions, most wouldn’t connect, even if they received service for free. So definitely a cultural thing. The only way these areas are getting high speed service is if the government both mandates that the lines must be installed and pays/subsidizes the cost of installation.

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I have friends in a very rural area that are still using dial up.

Actually, maybe they arn’t so different after all. Nowegians love rifles, hunting, moonshining, pick up trucks, log cabins and country music. Most Norwegians have rifles at home. But yes, people here love Teslas, liberal politics, and new tech based solutions just as much.
It’s a fascinating temperament, for sure. One of the reasons why I live here.