Dial-up Internet access was supposed to be dead by now, replaced by Wi-Fi, DSL and other high-speed services.
But dial-up is proving to be more resilient than expected, at least partly due to the recession, which has helped to prolong, or in some cases rekindle, demand for a slower but cheaper way to surf the Web.
Indeed, two of the nation's biggest providers of dial-up service, EarthLink and NetZero, are ratcheting up their marketing and promotional efforts to take advantage of consumers who are trading down from broadband or — more likely — delaying their switch to it.
This month, EarthLink began pitching "Connect for Less," a deal that offers dial-up service for $7.95 a month, or 25 cents a day. In December, NetZero, a unit of United Online, kicked off a national ad campaign for its $9.95-a-month plan. The campaign's theme was inspired by the national discussion of ways to stimulate the economy.
In their marketing, both NetZero and EarthLink home in on the money consumers can save by downgrading their Internet service from higher-priced plans.
EarthLink's offer, made through its PeoplePC subsidiary, also aims to attract unemployed consumers who, even if they're cutting household spending, need Internet access to check email and job listings.
"Clearly the economic situation today is tough for a lot of people," says Kevin Brand, EarthLink's senior vice president of product management. "If you're looking for a job, the Internet is your best resource for that, and we wanted to do something to help."
NetZero says in its commercials that its $9.95-a-month service can save households $300 a year. "It's a bigger consumer stimulus package than virtually anything that has come out of Washington," says Mark Goldston, United Online's chief executive.
Broadband service tends to be at least triple the price of dial-up. A July study by the Pew Internet and American Life Project found that the average U.S. broadband bill is $34.50 a month.