When AOL first caught on you had to pay an expensive hourly rate for it, which could easily add up to as much as $800 a month for hard-core gamers and Internet addicts.
Years later as the amount of people getting online with AOL skyrocketed AOL did away with hourly billing and went to flat-rate pricing. That netted you a bill every month of $19.95 (which went up to $23.90 over the years) for dial-up, tech support, and possibly some other services, depending on what you wanted along with your noisy modem.
In August of 2006 AOL’s premium content, email and software became free for everyone to use, but their dial-up service didn’t. The dial-up rate actually jumped from $23.90 to $25.90 a month with the so-called “goodies” included.
The good news was you could now get a bare-bones version of AOL’s unlimited dial-up plan for just $9.95 a month. The bad news was AOL notified exactly no one of the new dial-up plan. You had to learn of it on your own, then call AOL and ask them for it (and hope the service rep you spoke to would be honest enough to give it to you). To this day most people still pay AOL in the $20-something range for a mere dial-up subscription.
In another twist on AOL’s confusing price plans, AOL’s rate for the “basic” no-frills dial-up service is going up on July 27th from $9.95 a month to $11.99 a month, but only if you want to keep using AOL’s so-called “tech support”. Why wouldn’t you?
How AOL’s tech support works is you call one of AOL’s general help numbers (AOL no longer has any tech support line, which I learned the other day when I called AOL about two hundred times to update my phone number list), then a support rep pretends to know what the hell you’re talking about and to offer you relevant advice. Except that according to this dude AOL tech support can’t offer you any “relevant” advice until the end of the phone call (page no longer exists), because they’re simply not allowed to.
First they read to you from a list of nearly useless steps called the “flow” before they’re allowed to give you the advice you need. Once they’re done with the “flow” they’re not allowed to spend more than a few seconds giving you the advice you called up for – or they’ll get fired for going over their maximum call time length! If you want to pay AOL $2 a month for that sort of useless “support” then go ahead and do it. It’s your money – and AOL wants you to spend it.
My advice: If I were in that position, I’d quit AOL, stop using dial-up, and switch to broadband cable – that’s the only way you’ll ever get to enjoy all of the amazing sites and services that the Web offers for free these days.
If you can’t quit using dial-up, at least try switching to another ISP. There’s hardly an ISP around these days except AOL that will charge you more than $9.95 a month for the same level of service and so-called “features”.
If you absolutely must have AOL for whatever reason (Grandma won’t give it up, you live in the mountains, whatever) then pay AOL the $9.95 a month and use the highly skilled online tech support forums as a free – and more competent and caring – replacement for AOL’s lousy tech support. You have nothing to lose by joining one and letting computer experts try to help you, and you’ll probably end up much happier with their advice.