After I got done today responding to Joe Manna on this issue, I started answering my email for the first time in weeks, and one of my reader’s questions about AOL’s email storage policies brought me to Wikipedia’s page on AOL. That wouldn’t normally reveal the answer to something going on at AOL that it seems nobody has the answer for, but lo and behold the page was updated recently (run-on paragraphs abound; the italicized swath was italicized by me):
Members who joined AOL Australia from 1999 (when they first set up operations in Aus) up to 1st November 2008, were badly affected by recent AOL Australian Management changes. In Feb 2004 most AOL dial-up customers were ‘forcibly’ migrated to iPrimus telecom when Primus bought out AOL. iPrimus then put users on to their own dial-up or ADSL service, and switched old AOL accounts to the global ‘free AOL email’ service to allow uninterrupted AOL email access. ‘Members’ continued to access their original AOL accounts until around 1st December 2008 by using the US based AOL Webmail or alternative IMAP based email local client service such as Outlook. Access to member’s free AOL email box was possible through any ISP. AOL Australia then attempted to raise much needed cash, so decided (remarkably) to force free users back to using their old, paid for, dial up service, even though by then most people already had internet access through iPrimus or other ISP. If AOL had an active valid credit card on record, members were to be billed again completely by surprise. If AOL Australia couldn’t get the cash from a valid card, members had their ‘free AOL email’ account suspended, leaving existing users in a state of complete confusion and disarray. Members wanting to keep their email addresses had to pay AOL AU$6 a month within 90 days. AOL did not send out notification emails to AOL ‘free email’ users, but only to iPrimus email addresses and AOL dial-up software users. Members ‘free AOL email’ boxes with files and address books were cancelled until they paid up. Thousands of AOL customers were considerably upset by this course of action, which caused the reputation of AOL Australia to become even worse than it was already.
If the above quote is true [citation needed?], that solves the mystery of what happened to Australian users free AOL accounts.