I felt like a fool this past April when, in an era of
unlimited-use-for-$20, I received a bill for more than $40 from my Internet service
provider. When I signed up with Holonet in 1994, I was not online a lot, so hourly pricing
with a $6-per-month minimum was attractive and continued to be a good buy.
year, my use of newsgroups and the Web shot up.
I did not want to abandon Holonet entirely. The company had been reliable.
Furthermore, Holonet provides my domain name service; I did not want to move my domain
name to another ISP, lest access to my Website or e-mail be disrupted.
I had been a longtime CompuServe (CSi) user and had recently subscribed to America
Online (AOL) for my school-age daughters.
I wondered whether I could use those services for low-cost Internet access, yet still
be able to use my standard e-mail, Web and newsgroup software.
For years, the Software/Internet Section of the Legal Forum was the highlight of my
Recently, however, that section has been reduced to discussions of small-firm
accounting and case management programs, plus an occasional Word-vs.-WordPerfect flare-up.
Today, I use CSi mostly for searching Computer Database Plus, a collection of more than
800,000 articles about computer hardware and software. $9.95 per month includes five hours
of CSi use.
Since I actually use relatively little of that time on Computer Database Plus, most of
it is available for Internet access.
Once I am connected to CSi, I can use Eudora to pick up my Internet e-mail from Holonet
and Netscape Navigator to browse the Web.
Five hours per month is not much. But the really good news is that I discovered two
methods to stretch those five hours into virtually unlimited Web access at no additional
(CSi users who want the details regarding these methods: Send me an e-mail message from
your CompuServe account with CSi Details in the subject line. Be sure to
provide your name and the name of your firm or organization in the body of your message.)
The one problem with this approach is that CSi, like AOL, does not let me use Netscape
Navigator for reading Internet newsgroups.
Even worse, CSis newsgroup reader is an unusable leftover from the minicomputer
era that should be shot and put out of its misery. So I looked to AOL to complete the
AOL has well-known problems, most notably unbearably slow operation and tied-up modem
lines during periods of peak use.
But for a user on the West Coast, these problems are severe only from mid-afternoon
until evening Pacific Time a reflection of the high proportion of students among
the AOL user population.
From early morning until mid-afternoon, I can use AOL for reading newsgroups
(acceptable, but not great) and for e-mail and Web browsing with my standard software (a
bit slow, but also acceptable).
And there is no incremental charge beyond the fixed fee of $21.95 per month.
So for a total of about $38 per month (Holonet + CSi + AOL), I get domain name
services, e-mail, newsgroup, Web and CSi access, while my daughters can use the Internet
But what Im really looking forward to hopefully, later this year is
cable modem access and the possibility of dispensing with this dial-up business entirely!
Dana H. Shultz is an Oakland-based lawyer, certified management consultant and
speaker specializing in office technology and online marketing. He may be reached by
e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org and on the World Wide
Web at www.ds-a.com.