Broadband Users Returning to Dial-up

Matt O'Conner
CYBERSPACE – Frustrated by an onslaught of viruses and spyware, a small but growing number of computer users are giving up on broadband and returning to old-fashioned dial-up connections.

Stephen Seemayer has always considered himself on the cutting edge of technology. He was the first in his neighborhood with a computer, the first with Internet access, the first with a broadband connection.

Now, he’s on the cutting edge of a new trend. Sick of spam clogging his in-box and spyware crashing his system, Seemayer yanked out his high-speed connection.

While broadband use is still on the rise, many analysts see a possibly dangerous drift away from the speed of broadband and toward the safety of dial-up.

"People are getting really angry,” Forrester Research technology analyst Ted Schadler told the L.A. Times. “They're angry at Dell and Microsoft and their cable providers, and that's appropriate. They should be."

Spyware can take the lion’s share of the blame for the backward migration. Users feel endangered and hassled by the tricky programs, especially the most insidious variety that make expensive toll calls or steal account numbers and passwords.

The nation's top PC maker, Dell Inc., said spyware issues are at the root of most of the company’s incoming tech support calls during the last 18 months.

"If, as an industry, we're not able to provide a safe, reliable computing environment, we do think consumers will get increasingly frustrated," Michael George, general manager of Dell's U.S. consumer business, said to the Times. "We're concerned, and we want to get to a position where we play an instrumental role in fixing the problem."

But stemming the tide of spyware is easier said than done. The plain truth is that spyware is profitable, making it tempting option even for such blue-chip companies such as Motorola, Verizon and JP Morgan Chase, all of which have run ads via spyware programs.

”The part that worries me most is the tremendous amount of money that can be made by tricking people into installing junk on their computers," Ben Edelman, a Harvard graduate student and Internet researcher, told the Times. "It's a great business."