Want CNET to notify you of price drops and the latest stories?

AOL users won't take it anymore

Respondents to the latest NEWS.COM Poll say they are mad as hell about busy signals when logging on AOL and that the online service just isn't doing enough to fix the problem.

5 min read
America Online (AOL) customers are mad as hell and some are not going to take it anymore.

 AOL is now impossible
I was an AOL subscriber for three years, but since December '96 it became practically impossible to get connected to the service. Therefore, I canceled the service first week of January '97 and currently I'm using EarthLink as my Internet provider.
--Artur Zwierzchowki
That was the sentiment forcefully relayed by the latest NEWS.COM Poll, which asked if readers think AOL is doing enough to deal with the barrage of complaints about busy signals and poor service that have been directed toward the online giant ever since it implemented an all-you-can-eat pricing plan last month.

Of the 1,511 readers who responded, an overwhelming majority--76 percent--said AOL is failing to respond adequately to its service problems. That spells bad news for AOL, which has protested this past week that it's putting up new modems as fast as it can.

Growing pains
The reason why I intend to stay with AOL is that I can access it via the Internet thru TCP/IP. I can then get my mail and any new software quickly and easily. I can ride out this storm right now, but I can sympathize with the others who are fed up.
--Robert Wilke
But the response to the second NEWS.COM Poll question--if AOL's unique content is valuable enough to stick it out with the service instead of switching to another provider--may be more distressing for AOL executives. Of the 1,264 readers who responded to this question, 61 percent said "No."

Some users were sympathetic to AOL's plight and praised the content that they can get only on AOL. Some characterized the problems as "growing pains" and said they'd stay in spite of the constant busy signals because the benefits--such as a permanent email address, screening for children, and organized content--outweighed the drawbacks.

Convenience makes it worth it I'm staying with AOL, just because of the convenience of relatives and friends that are already on AOL. I connect through an ISP, so I never have a busy signal, but to others who don't wish to, they will not hang around.
--Scott Albrecht
But supportive comments were significantly in the minority, and some respondents sent simply unprintable reactions. In short, the word around town is that AOL users are angry and frustrated with the online company for widely advertising a service it can't deliver.

"The only reason I stay with AOL is [that they provide] a user home page," wrote Paul Stasky. "When I find another service with that capacity my membership will cease...I'm very disappointed that AOL was so foolish as to not realize that this giant clog would happen going to unlimited use. There is no excuse for it and I believe they shouldn't have done it until they were ready with the system equipment."

Others say they already have abandoned AOL.

 Content isn't enough
AOL has only had one access number in my area. No matter how good the content is, if I can't connect the service is worthless.
--David J. Nosotti
"I was only using AOL to get to the World Wide Web and newsgroups and I just got tired of all the busy signals, disconnects, and too many pending requests," wrote Paul Bailey. "So I decided it was time to sign up with an ISP. I am very pleased with the decision that I have made and have recommended that everyone in our company do the same."

Roscoe Brooks summed it up this way: "If they dumped molasses into the Library of Congress, would you wade through it, because 'the content is great?'"

In your words

Don't worry about it
The problems at AOL have been blown WAYYY out of proportion! This is the easiest way for average folks to participate in and learn about the online world. There are so many interesting areas to play in, and so many helpful folks around (some who really do know the answers) when a problem needs some discussion.

The people who are jumping on the lawsuit bandwagon are probably the same guys who try to get in the ten item express checkout with 20 items. Besides...January has become hell anyway for connecting online. After Santa (or Hannukah Harry) delivers enough modems to cover the planet, folks get 'Internet' fever for a least a month. It usually drops off around mid-February

What AOL deserves
I just recently gave up on AOL. I got off the runaway train before the present all-in-one-pricing fiasco. Even when I was connected (here in Miami), the connections were slow (I have a 33.6 and I would sometimes connect at 9600 or 14.4 at best). There were times in the day that I would get a busy signal (and all this was fall and early winter of 96) and I believe that they edit their access to the Internet and several newsgroups. I hope the class-action suits teach them a lesson. They are guilty as hell of selling people a faulty product based and boosted by commercial hype.
--Luis M. Avila

I can live with it
I plan to give AOL every chance to resolve the present gridlock. From easy to use email to interesting forums and helpful (bulletin boards), not to mention lots of free software for downloading, it's a good deal for those of us who don't have the time to bother with the often frustrating experience of a direct Internet connection. There is also a sense of being a member of a community. I know that "serious" technology buffs look down on anyone with an AOL address, but I'm 51 years old and can live with it.
--Ron Weidman

Goodbye for good
I have once before canceled my service from AOL. This time NOT being able to get connected and hence finding out that the problem was AOL's and not something at this end, caused me to cancel my service this time for good. No word from AOL, spent several hours and days trying to change phone numbers and different things to get connected, only to find out this was their problem. $19.95 flat rate is OK, but it still can be a lot less. The other annoying thing was to get hit with their "Upgrade" to a year payment in advance, EVERY time you logged on. This is insane. If I wanted to pay up front for one year I would have said so. To continue to display this message, to me is nothing short of harassment. Goodbye AOL, This time its for good.
--Mike Schultze