Our friends on dial-up

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It didn’t make the key facts in the Stats NZ announcement on internet use, but the figure surprised me – 24,000 New Zealanders are paying for a dial-up connection.

Who are these people? Where do they live? Can they not get broadband? Can they not afford broadband?

When I asked the man at Stats NZ these questions, he was unable to tell me. Being a numbers man I didn’t expect him to. Dial-up only makes up one-per cent of total usage – and its decreased from 5% of internet users in 2013. You could say that at least dial-up subscribers have some kind of access to internet. But dial-up? What would you even pay for it?

A quick Google search surfaced dial-up plans with Maxnet1, now owned by Vocus, which range from $3.95 per month for two-hours of usage to $26.95 per month for unlimited access. Compare this with broadband plans which cost around twice the priciest dial-up plan.

The 20/20 Trust addresses the issue of affordability as a barrier to internet access in its election manifesto: “For some communities, especially low-income ones, the challenge is now affordability. Early internet services (albeit low speed dial-up services) were available for not much more than $10 per month; today, entry-level broadband plans start at $50-$60 per month.”

There is presumably a business model for last adopters (who are probably much easier to satisfy than those early ones) and Maxnet seems to have identified a target market with a picture of an old-fashioned telephone on its dial-up plan page. If you really only used the internet for one hour a month and wanted it available, just in case, then $3.95 is maybe a reasonable amount to pay.

But every time you wanted to go online you would have to put up with this:

Over time, the number of dial-up users will dwindle to so few that even Maxnet probably won’t care about them. Their numbers fell 14% in the past year, according to the Stats NZ survey. But what happens to them when dial-up calls out its last, lonely screech – do these subscribers go onto broadband plans or do they just go offline?

1 http://www.maxnet.co.nz/internet/dial-up.html, please note this was not an exhaustive search of dial-up plans available in NZ.

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