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Many Canadians Still Surfing Online at a Snail's Pace

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Dial-up Internet has become such a thing of the past that wistful tech geeks in kitschy throwback style have taken to simulating the screeches, pops, and hisses of the old 56K World Wide Web. As Minyanville reported last month, a site called “offers a free Wav file download of the dial-up sound effect and Lazylaces brought an old US Robotics modem back to life -- complete with blinking lights.”

But there are sizeable segments of the industrialized First World who don’t have to wax nostalgic for the Internet connecting of yesteryear. An article released Monday by The Canadian Press -- and using figures from various sources -- reported that between 250,000 and 370,000 of Canadian Internet users are still using dial-up to get online.

The lion’s share of these customers live in rural areas and are forced to endure dial-up due to lack of access. According to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, in 2010, high-speed Internet wasn’t available to five percent of the Canadian population, with that number more than tripling for residents in remote communities. Still, many other Canadians in more metropolitan areas   simply can’t afford high-speed service, which usually costs a minimum of $30 per month.

In the US, statistically speaking, Internet customers actually fare a whole lot worse. As of 2010, about one-third of Americans, or 93 million people, were bandwidth disabled. United Online (UNTD) subsidiary NetZero and EarthLink (ELNK) still offer basic dial-up service for under $10. And though they’re not called America Online anymore, AOL (AOL) has a similarly-priced monthly dial-up package.

The importance of high-speed connectivity cannot be underestimated -- from helping launch political revolutions to staying competitive in business to satisfying our need to instantly load videos of cats running on treadmills. As such, President Obama pledged in 2011 to make broadband access to Americans a government priority. His administration outlined a plan to “invest $5 billion into a fund that will make 500 megahertz of wireless spectrum” available to 98% of consumers by 2020.
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