I canceled my Earthlink dial-up account last night. After 12 years of paying a monthly fee for a primary, then backup, then last resort internet access option, I closed my account.
The main reason I finally closed it? Because after 12 years of being a monthly recurring payment for the company, I felt zero affinity for the Earthlink brand. Their communication to me was never more than a monthly email invoice and as a customer, I didn’t feel Comcastic or that I got more or that anything was really being delivered. Present value aside, I’ve spent over $3,000 in payments for dial-up. Maybe Earthlink didn’t want to bring this to my attention, as if the reason I was still subscribed was because I had forgotten about it.
It hadn’t always been this way. I actually started out as a Mindspring customer back in 1995. There was AOL, but I needed access to the "real" internet to supplement my research tools as an analyst at Coopers & Lybrand. The internet wasn’t key to the business at that point – we had a limited internal system called REACH and used "colybrand.com" as our domain. I was issued a briefcase that held a two inch thick laptop on one side and a portable HP printer on the other. Yes, I was expected to take a portable (albeit color) inkjet printer on the road with me, 5 days a week.
Anyway, Mindspring was a pretty cool company. Their customer support people were smart and friendly. I liked the company so much, that in Peter Lynch style, I bought stock in the company. It started around $38 and ran up into the $80s during the dot-com boom. I eventually ended up with some Earthlink stock and sold it to help pay for an engagement ring.
Over the years, I always kept that dial-up account. I think it began at $6.95 a month for 5 hours, then I went to $29.95 for unlimited, and was a quite a few price points in-between, even when I got Verizon DSL and then Charter Cable, and finally Comcast Cable for the past four years. But that wasn’t the only technology that killed dial-up: I think the emergence of wireless was the tipping point. Not only can you get cable speed at home and T1 or better at work, but now you can get high speed in almost any hotel, airport, or coffee shop in the U.S. Funny that we didn’t care so much about coffee shops period ten years ago.
So farewell, Earthlink/Mindspring. Your biggest fault was a bland brand that used to be something special.