July 8, 2008

Sometimes, words won't do

July 7, 2008

Pew study backs need for Flint's low-cost dial-up Genesee Free-net

The failure of the Genesee Free-Net, based in Flint, Michigan, was predicted from its beginning in the early 1990s. But the non-profit community computer network, which recently expanded its dial-up Internet service to all of Michigan, knows what a Pew Internet Project study found - the low cost access is still needed.

Although the press release from Pew and most of the Internet buzz focused on the growth of broadband connections, some attention was paid to the 15 percent of Americans who have dial-up at home.

In fact, the study found that nothing - yes, nothing - would persuade 19% of dial-up users to switch to broadband.

The Pew Internet press release shared these findings about the 10% of Americans (or 15% of home internet users) with dial-up at home:

  • 35% of dial-up users say that the price of broadband service would have to fall.

  • 10% of dial-up users – and 15% of dial-up users in rural America – say that broadband service would have to become available where they are.

  • Overall, 62% of dial-up users say they are not interested in switching from dial-up to broadband.

That has to be good news for the non-profit Genesee Free-Net, which is one of the few sources for dial-up service.

The Pew Internet Project also found that two groups found in big numbers in the Flint area are not flocking to broadband. The study found:

  • Among adults who live in households whose annual incomes are less than $20,000 annually, home broadband adoption stood at 25% in early 2008, compared with 28% in 2007.

  • Among African Americans, home broadband adoption stood at 43% in May 2008 compared with 40% in early 2007.

The study also shows the Michigan group's price is still a bargain.

Dial-up users report a montly bill of $19.70 for service, an increase of 9% over the $18 figure reported in December 2005, according to Pew.

The Genesee Free-Net offers accounts starting at $60 per year, with everything over $25 tax deductible. Even organizations can get low cost access to the Internet.

As one of the folks who helped to start and invested in the organization, I'm happy to see the Genesee Free-Net continue even if the goal of offering free access at all times wasn't possible. (Feel free to give someone a gift account - or send the $$$ and designate for free accounts.)

Here's hoping the effort to expand statewide succeeds. Know someone in Michigan who needs dial-up access? Check the access numbers to see if you can dial-in. You can even consider adding a dial-up account as a backup account.