I finished writing for the Tribune last week (on a regular basis) but my final piece wasn’t published so as recycling makes sense and all that, here’s my piece about banning dialup:
There’s a healthy debate currently going on in Ireland about broadband, the availability of it and the speed of it. Ireland is far from a broadband nation and a lot needs to be done to remedy this. However with all the talk of broadband we seem to be overlooking dialup. Many on dialup could easily move to broadband but they don’t. Dialup is expensive, backward, dangerous and it’s holding us back. It’s time to ban dialup and give people the choice of broadband or nothing.
Eircom estimates there are still around 200,000 active dialup users in the country. Shockingly 60% of these users could move to broadband. Many of the broadband providers are a bit perplexed about this. While it’s true some of the highest users of dialup want broadband and are desperately trying to get it, there is still a glut of people who could move over but won’t.
Recent ComReg figures show that the average spend by dialup users is over €30 per month yet the cheapest broadband packages these days cost €20 or even less. If dialup customers were moved over on to broadband they’d automatically make savings on top of all the other advantages broadband offers. Those who say they only want to go online for a few minutes each month too no longer have to use dialup. Three Ireland have now released a pay as you go mobile broadband package. A 24-hour 3Pay Broadband top up will be €5 with a 500MB download limit. A week’s connection will cost €10 with a 2GB download limit or a 30 day will cost €30 with 10GB download limit. Other providers are sure to follow this connection model.
It’s not just about money though. Wth so many viruses and hacking attempts online the average computer in order to stay secure is downloading virus definition updates at least once a day. These updates take seconds on broadband to download but can take 10-20 minutes on some dialup connections. Couple that with essential security patches for operating systems and applications and computers are busy fixing themselves up daily. Even with broadband, a naked, just out of the box computer is vulnerable to attack until properly patched. IT Security consultant Brian Honan points out the ever-long battle to stay secure: “Even with a broadband connection a PC shipped from a manufacturer or bought in a shop could take so long to download and update all the relevant security software and patches to the system that it could be infected by the time it has secured itself. Of course this is even worse for dial-up users.”
Honan also points out that operating system updates and patches for Microsoft Office can be as large as 200-300Mb which some on dialup might have ignored: “I am sure there are still a lot of PCs out there running Windows XP Service Pack 1 simply because Service Pack 2 was too big to download.” I carried out a speed test comparison that showed downloading a service pack on broadband took 25 minutes but took as long as 14 hours on dialup. That’s if the person on dialup can allow themselves to stay online that long.
Finally, broadband is good for our broadband rankings. Turning off dialup for those that can switch to broadband would mean we instantly add 100,000 broadband connections to Irish broadband figures and would see us reach or get close to the European Average for broadband after years of trying. Something that would give the under-fire Communications Minister something to smile about at last. With hardly any effort or expenditure we could get away from the bottom of the broadband leagues. People are stubborn though and will resist change, even when it’s good for them. We succeeded with plastic bags and smoking. Now we need a dialup ban. It’s better, cheaper and safer for all of us that go online.