Top 25 things vanishing in America: # 21 -- Dial-up Internet access

This series explores aspects of America that may soon be just a memory -- some to be missed, some gladly left behind. From the least impactful to the most, here are 25 bits of vanishing America.

When I was growing up, any attempt to hop on the Internet was met with the tell-tale squeaks and squawks of a dial-up connection. The agonizing call of dial up users reaching out to connect is disappearing from America; in fact dial up connections have fallen from 40% in 2001 to 10% in 2008. The combination of an infrastructure to accommodate affordable high speed Internet connections and the disappearing home phone have all but pounded the final nail in the coffin of dial up Internet access.

For the longest time my employer, a small college in Ohio, has offered free dial-up Internet access to both current and retired faculty and staff as an additional benefit of employment. Just this past month, much to the dismay of a group of employees who used the Internet for email and an on-demand weather channel, the college decided to discontinue the dial-up access. The letter sent to current users of the dial up cited the cost of maintaining what amounted to a local dial-up Internet service provider (ISP) as well as the increased availability and affordability of high speed solutions. It seems that this group isn't alone, as a recent survey showed 62% of those with dial-up today don't want to upgrade!

The only real sad part about dial-up disappearing from America is that the many small local ISP's who were able to offer dial up service and provide competition are being forced out of business. I'm not shedding a tear because the demands of consumers have changed, leading to the downfall of those companies that failed to offer high speed Internet products. Unlike dial -up service, there are significant barriers to entry into the high speed Internet business, the most glaring being that the existing players don't let other companies use the existing infrastructure to deliver a connection. Hopefully something can be done to increase competition in the high speed market, or innovation could be the next thing we heave into the grave to rest forever next to dial-up.

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