Time to ban dialup

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.

13 Responses to “Time to ban dialup”

  1. Richard says:

    Hi Damien,

    In principle, I agree with you. By removing such a decrepit and wasteful resource, perhaps more people would move onto broadband, thereby allowing the providers to expand their range and services offered.

    The big problem with that, is that within the 200,000 people, there are many who do not fall into that amazing 60% who could avail of broadband. Home for me (not work home in Dublin) is one of those places. Over the years, I have constantly monitored the availability of broadband in my area (a small part of Co. Mayo) and I still have no other alternatives.

    By removing dialup, my Dad (principle user of the dial up) and myself would have no net access at all, short of resorting to satellite which is simply not cost effective. What would we do in the eventuality of dialup being banned?

    All the best,


  2. Damien says:

    1. The 40% who can’t get broadband would have to fail the broadband test to be able to continue to get their dialup service. It wouldn’t be a case of broadband or nothing.

    2. Now we instantly have a database of real life Internet users who want broadband and can’t get it. Hard to ignore them.

    3. Usage rates for that 40% are probably going to be very high which might force telcos to reduce the amount they charge for dialup. I think if someone is suffering dialup then they should be given some kind of discount or hardship allowance.

  3. Treasa says:

    My mother is screaming I mean very enthusiastic for broadband. We think that the reason she fails the broadband test is that the line was split between her house and another. I have looked at mobile broadband products for her and discovered that at the time (it may have changed by now) she was not located within either Vodafone or O2 coverage. IIRC, she was outside the scope of the O2 coverage by around a half a mile. I was not amused.

    I might look at the 3G option for her if they have coverage there. Her biggest, biggest complaint about her dial up is not so much that it is slow but that it breaks down constantly and she has to redial which is a sucker if she is in the middle of downloading email – she winds up getting it twice or one spectacular occasion just after a holiday, three times most of the email over a week. She is also angling for access to youtube (very bad if you’re on dial up).

    She has written to eircom several times about this. She has looked at other suppliers such as perlico and IBB and digico or whatever they are called. I have looked at Chorus for her.

    I’m all in favour of banning dial up but instead of compelling the end user to prove they can’t get broadband, make it extremely unattractive for the the infrastructure providers not to provide broadband to the entire country within a specified deadline. I recommend a massive daily fine – six figures at least – so that it is more economical to provide broadband than not to provide broadband. I’m not sure if our telecoms/business legislation allows us to do that – as many things here are so spineless it is likely – but in the event that yes it can be done…it should be done as it is the only way out of the quagmire. Our ethos is to do as little as we can get away with so we need to push up the bar on what can be gotten away with.

  4. Treasa says:

    Digiweb I mean. today is not a good day.

  5. Hi Damien,
    Sorry, I don’t agree with you for once.
    Why blame the consumer and reduce their choices? We’re one of the top countries for regulatory agencies, yet we don’t enforce half the regulations we have, so we get poor services in so many areas.
    The real issue here, is the Teleco’s and the rotten customer service coupled with poor marketing.

    Broadband was available to my Dad, but it took months and many phone calls, letters to get it. He’s retired now, so the constant no shows did not bother him as much as it would some one working outside the home. (He could n’t self install as there was a monitored alarm) He nearly gave up until I let him use my PC with broadband and he saw the difference.
    Because of the poor service and perception that you can’t get it,many customers can’t be bothered with broadband because it’s just too much hassle.

    The Teleco’s if they’re serious about reducing dial up, need to improve their customer service, their marketing and offer incentives to people to move.

    PS Congrats on another successful blog awards

  6. Evert Bopp says:

    jayzus, here’s you and me agreeing on a lot of issues lately and then you post this!

  7. […] see Mulley is back on the broadband bandwagon again. Roll on. In the UK they seem to be complaining about […]

  8. Bluefrog says:

    Given that the customer experience of the Three Ireland broadband products has been less than good based on the feedback in the megathread on boards.ie – http://www.boards.ie/vbulletin/showthread.php?t=2055115306, I have to wonder why anyone would suggest them as a viable solution for broadband at this point.

    I suspect it’s also somewhat of an over-simplification to suggest that those still with dialup that could avail of broadband have cheap alternatives and could actually make savings. The cheapest broadband offerings out there at the moment tend to be wireless solutions and are very location dependent. The fact is that fixed line broadband is still extremely expensive relatve to even our next door neighbours in the UK and the 3G/HSDPA options provided by our more established and reliable telcos are no better. 3G access also tends to come with restrictions that fixed line customers would never face or would not tolerate. Take for example Three’s 6 moth fumbling with basic SMTP access.

  9. […] that users still using dial-up access to the Internet typically face.  Damien has now published the article on his […]

  10. I think it’s actually easier than banning dial-up. It’s as simple as subsidising sushi in the corner shops. Do that and empirical research suggests broadband will connect all customers of the shop:

  11. Emma says:

    Hem…I’m one of the people that actually CAN’T get broadband. I’m out by about a quarter of a mile. The only broadband I can get stops working after a few days…I know, I’ve tried two kinds and there are no other options. Dial-up is painful…but it’s my only option

  12. Binch Meyers says:

    I live in the U.S. and pay $5/month for dialup (200 hrs./month being the only restriction). I can’t believe you guys have to pay so much for it.

    I download by volume — updates etc. — by going to a local library every few weeks with my laptop and plugging into their high speed connection, which is free of course.

    Satellite is $70/month in my rural area. Some of the companies are gradually spreading. DSL is $30/month but not available in my neighborhood.

    A lot of people probably stick with dialup because they don’t spend that much time on the computer, and use it mostly for e-mail. I remember when Compuserve charged $7/hour for a connection to their network. This was before the internet.

    When the internet first arrived, a few years later, AOL also had an hourly rate structure, once you went beyond the 20 or whatever hours that were included. At that time, (1995?), I switched immediately to the first $20/month flat rate provider that came to my area. One year, 2002, I even used a provider that was free, with no ads, that worked very well. I was mystified that then, when there were several $10/month providers, people stuck with AOL, paying $25/month or more.

    I would imagine that some people do not switch to broadband because they’ve heard stories of people’s problems with it, or they are suspicious of the low price, and think it is a come-on; that when they sign up at 20, it’ll go up to 50 the following year.

    I started with something like a 4k modem, and remember thinking I was streaking with a 12k one. Then it went to something like 14k, 28k, and finally 56k. I was put out to learn there was not going to be any faster. Sooooo disappointing. Then broadband. Well, I’m sure we’ll all be at a google G in a few years, or 20MB at least.

  13. Paul Kearney says:

    Prices in Ireland for broadband are still too high (even in a bundle).