Three Million People Still Use AOL Dial-Up

Unbelievably, there are still three million people subscribed to America Online’s dial-up service:

The headline from AOL’s earnings report this week is that its turnaround as a digital media and advertising company is slowly starting to show progress.

But did you know that AOL still has 3 million dialup “access” subscribers — generating a third of the company’s revenue and likely most of its profit? That might be more paying U.S. subscribers than Spotify and Hulu Plus have combined.

AOL finished June with 3.03 million subscribers, down just 84,000 from the prior quarter and 400,000 from a year ago. While the dialup industry is obviously in permanent decline, AOL’s subscriber losses last quarter were less than half what they were a year ago.

So, in one sense, AOL dialup just had its best quarter in a decade — at least when measured by subscriber losses.

The chart tells the story:

This reminds me of the stories one hears every now and then that there are still people out there who pay a “rental” fee to their telephone company for the land line phone they use, even though people have been free to buy phones anywhere for about 30 years now. As in that case, one suspects that the vasts majority of these dial-up subscribers are elderly, and likely on a fixed income. Say what you will but an AOL Dial-Up account which, according to this page on the company’s website, can be as cheap as $9.99/month, which is cheaper than pretty much any internet plan you’re going to get from a cable company. Additionally, there are among this group some people who are in parts of the country still not reached by high-speed internet. It’s an odd artifact of a bygone era, but it’s understandable why it still exists. Eventually, though, it will all completely fade away.

FILED UNDER: Economics and Business,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. John Peabody says:

    In 2001, when AOL was all the rage and customer service was woefully understaffed, a competitor had a great line: “AOL suggests you try calling a bit later. Maybe in the spring.”

  2. Neil Hudelson says:

    My grandparents in suburban Detroit still use AOL dial-up. The cost is a factor, though not because of their fixed income. My grandfather’s attitude is why should he pay more than $10 a month to check his email and stock prices now and then?

  3. One other possibility: just because someone has an AOL subscription doesn’t mean that’s how they access the internet. By way of example, I still have an AT&T Worldnet dialup account even though I never actually use it since I also have Verizon DSL. I keep it because it was my main e-mail address for so long I don’t want to go to the trouble of having to change it in the bazillion different places it’s listed as my contact info.

  4. Franklin says:

    Let’s face it: if all those people had high-speed Internet, it just means you’d be sent more “Obama is a devil mooslim socialist Hitler” e-mails from your uncle. Just let them be.

  5. Ben says:

    I work for a very large nationwide ISP, and I can tell you that dial-up is going to be around for a long, long time. The fact of the matter is that the US has some extremely sparsely populated areas for which broadband will never be profitable, so it will never be installed. And while DSL works over phone lines, it’s distance-dependent and is basically impossible to get a working signal when you get more than about 5 miles out from a central office.

  6. James in LA says:

    AOL contributed more to SPAM than any other entity on earth. When they were gatekeepers, they had the ability to put the kibosh on a lot of early email SPAM that has sine become legions of mindless robots. They instead looked the other way, and deliberately so.

    How many users does CompuServe still have?

  7. Bill says:

    This sometime contributor to OTB still has an AOL account. In fact its from where I email James Joyner or Doug. My AOL has been free for over five years and I have Wireless at home provided by Bell South. AOL is essentially an email account for me.

    I remember the last time I used AOL dialup. In Aug 2008 I had heart valve replacement surgery and repair of an ascending aortic aneurysm. This is no minor cardiac surgery. It is a six hour operation. After surgery I had complications including pneumonia. My hospital stay was 16 days in length. I got discharged the same day Sarah Palin was announced as John McCain’s running mate.

    On my 13th day in the hospital, I finally had the energy to use a computer and DW brought me my laptop. Then the fun began. My hospital didn’t provide wireless internet to its patients. So I had no other option than AOL dialup.

    All I wanted to do was notify friends of my condition but I had about 30 minutes of energy for the computer and it was taking me 20 minutes to get online. During my last days in the hospital, I only used the comp. if my wife was with me. Since those days were all weekdays, that meant I wasn’t online much. A year later, I was in the same hospital again but not for cardiac reasons, by then they provided wireless.

    End of the story- I’m on AOL essentially all day long. Firefox is the web browser I use. AOL is there to notify me if I get email. Instead of “You’ve got mail” wav, I have Sergeant Schultz intoning “I know nothing, nothing!’ When I sign off AOL the song “We’ll meet again” plays. If I could just get a wav file of Weyoun on Star Trek Space Nine saying “Time to start packing” I’d be gloriously happy.

    Yes I am crazy. Isn’t that a requirement to still be an AOL user?

  8. matt says:

    @Bill: Here you go buddy. If rapidshare is bad for you I can do about anything you choose.
    I found that episode to be hilarious.

    Win7’s sound recorder can go to hell.. It’s a sad day when the XP version of something is superior…

    I grew up in one of those rural areas that didn’t have broadband. The town I lived in had terribly old lines and equipment. It was so bad that when the weather wasn’t perfect I’d connect as slow as 2400 baud. Verizon finally got around to updating the infrastructure and deployed DSL shortly after I moved. A court order forced Verizon to spin that DSL business off as Frontier. I can only imagine that there are still many communities with limited internet access options. Wimax is helping though and is probably the best hope for those areas.

  9. Bill says:


    Thank you very much. You made my day. I love DS9 too and that was IMHO one of the show’s funniest lines.

  10. matt says:

    @Bill: It’s Matt.

    In case you were wondering I first downloaded the video of the scene from youtube. I then converted the video into a .wav encapsulated file via the cd profile in VLC. Then i used XP’s sound recorder to clip it. For some reason MS nerfed the functionality of sound recorder in win7…

  11. matt says:

    @Bill: Sorry I got caught up in my world of geekiness and forgot to say you’re welcome.