As evinced by my last post, I’ve been mucking about with dialup lately. I’ve resurrected my account and run a few tests on it. Honestly, with the included accelerator, I could bear using the service if it meant the difference between $50 satellite and $8 dialup (pay by year). I’d have to go into town to do any big downloads, but I’d do that with sat internet anyway. You can’t run VoIP over satellite so the $50-to-$8 comparison stands.

Anyhow, after trying I thought “who are the big players in the dialup industry?” Here’s the list I came up with:

1) AOL
2) NetZero/Juno (the former has more access numbers)
3) EarthLink/PeoplePC

There are other dialup ISPs, but they pretty much are just the same as, albeit with different pricing, possibly a shorter list of access numbers and a different domain on the end of your e-mail address. As such, I’m sticking with, which I’ve had good luck with, for my emergency dialup/every-once-in-a-while newsgroup access/branded e-mail needs. Even Earthlink and NetZero share the 729-1999 number, and thus probably that USAWide backbone network and dialup performance.

However I was curious about AOL. From what I’ve gathered, they’re the only company in my area that actually has a different phone number for dialup access than 830-729-1999. As such, their service would be running on different equipment, with possibly different performance characteristics.

So I ordered a $9.99 limited-support unlimited-access dialup account from “The New AOL”. The company still sells a $25.90 (!?!) package that includes God-knows-what addons and granny-proof support, but I just wanted to know how the connection fared. My new e-mail address is [email protected]; iansltx (my usual screen name), ianlittman and a few other of my first-choice screen names were unavailable, something that has never happened to me anywhere else.

After dropping $9.99 for a month of ‘net access, I proceeded to download AOL 9.0 Optimized (or what the heck ever it’s called) over my broadband connection. The software was obviously designed for being distributed on a CD; the thing must have weighed in at 200MB! Pulling that software in over dialup would’ve taken me nearly fourteen hours, assuming I has a 32 kbps connection and wasn’t doing anything else with said connection. INSANE!

Now AOL does have a version 9.1 in beta that’s about one-third the size (or at least it seemed that way; AOL’s proprietary downloader doesn’t tell you such things) but, compared with an all-inclusive 4.5-megabyte installer for AOL’s installer is patently ridiculous. Alternately, you can find your phone number and connect with Windows’ own dialer for a zero-KB download. Last I heard that doesn’t work with AW…er…AOL.

So once the download and installation process was done (which took nearly as long as installing Windows 7, mind you), I turned off wireless on the computer and dialed into AOL. After a bit, the modem synced with AOL and I was online…ish.

You see, apparently the computers on AOL’s end are downright sucky. I’d wager the AOL number I connected to was running off a fractional T1 with too many users on a phone line that had been chewed on by varmints of multiple types. You wouldn’t know that by the connection latency, which shows off the AOL Transit Data Network (ATDN for short), but the connection was actually more sluggish than satellite. Which reminds me, I need to uninstall the crapware when I’m done with their month of service; I think it’s slowing my computer down.

So here are the traceroutes. As I said above, they look decent. Too bad download speeds are around 19.2k and pages take positively forever to load. In case you’re wondering, I wan’t doing ANYTHING in tha background while the traceroute was being run, though I suspect AOL 9.0 was.

Tracing route to [] over a maximum of 30 hops:
1 769 ms    206 ms    197 ms []
2 203 ms    206 ms    198 ms []
3 1495 ms    1586 ms    428 ms []
4 220 ms    205 ms    206 ms []
5 2006 ms    1681 ms    205 ms []
6 195 ms    196 ms    221 ms []
7 1926 ms    1753 ms    776 ms []
8 242 ms    244 ms    245 ms []
9 2084 ms    244 ms    245 ms []
10 242 ms    253 ms    252 ms []
Tracing route to [] over a maximum of 30 hops
1 206 ms    196 ms    198 ms []
2 196 ms    190 ms    197 ms []
3 186 ms    199 ms    196 ms []
4 186 ms    197 ms    198 ms []
5 189 ms    196 ms    197 ms []
6 187 ms    555 ms    189 ms []
7 188 ms    189 ms    198 ms []
8 189 ms    196 ms    197 ms
9 259 ms    253 ms    261 ms
10 252 ms   269 ms    253 ms
11   *      975 ms    269 ms
12 276 ms   277 ms    277 ms []

As you can see, AOL doesn’t appear to peer with any of the “big guys” in Dallas, which I find odd. But hey, you take what you can get, right? Yes, but you have a bit more selection in dialup-land ISP-wise than if you want broadband. Again, while the traceroutes above are decent, I would wholeheartedly recommend you go with a sane dialup provider like, then download the AOL software yourself if you must have their keyword-ridden content stable. You’ll end up with a much more reliable connection from my experience, and you can uninstall their crapware without losing internet access. Plus, it doesn’t cost more and may well cost less than AWOL…erm…AOL. No wonder they’re a dying company who wants to get out of the dialup biz.