California Bar Journal
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Stretching your dial-up dollars
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Dana ShultzI 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.

But this 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 CompuServe experience.

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 charge!

(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, CSi’s 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 picture.

America Online

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 and AOL.

But what I’m 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 and on the World Wide Web at