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April 19, 2004


Dial-up fans: a loving study

The NY Times can be a stick in the mud, and sometimes its writers appear to enjoy being behind on trends. Like an article last month about this great new service called "Netflix" that people really like. Now, they write a piece about the over 50 million Americans who are still using dial-up internet access. Their numbers are shrinking, but they still outnumber high-speed folks by 2 to 1. The article approaches dial-uppers with real warmth and understanding for their sometimes illogical aversion to high-speed: they are described as "neither Luddites nor laggards, but consumers content to pay for a service that is less than optimal, and at times even frustratingly slow, because they say greater speed is not worth the trouble." A retired lawyer says, "I bring a newspaper and sit and read" while waiting for downloads, and a 31 year-old HR rep says "I just tell [my friends] I'm more patient than they are." See, suffering through dial-up is a virtue! Morality issues are also raised by some users of dial-up, who "sheepishly acknowledge that they avoid admitting their low network speeds when they are with their better-connected friends." Be proud of yourselves, patient low-speeders of the world: The New York Times will stand by you.

Some of us, of course, use dial-up because it is still a lot cheaper, and we have high-speed at work for when we need to download big files of disco-dancing Bush games or streaming videos of William Hung mixed with the Star Wars light saber kid. A former journalist in California says it's just "fear and inertia" that prevent her from switching over. Service providers are working hard to overcome these factors, and it looks like married, older women will be the hardest group to convert. I wonder if the popularity of high-speed among young, single men and the success of internet porn sites might be (heh) connected?

categories: Culture, Technology
posted by amy at 12:15 PM | #