RALEIGH, N.C. — More than 100 million people regularly surf the Internet. By far, the most popular way people get to the Internet is with America Online, but there are many other choices. Consumer Reports takes a look at Internet service providers.
America Online has 23 million subscribers. While subscriber Angie Myers says it is not perfect, it has some definite plusses.
"It's good to chat with my friends. It's good to do e-mail and do certain functions, but if I want to do a lot of things on the Internet, I find it's slow and unreliable," she said.
Consumer Reports checked out AOL and seven other Internet service providers, including AT&T WorldNet, EarthLink, Prodigy, CompuServe and MSN.
"We surveyed more than 1,600 people who go online the way most of us do with a dial-up connection. We found that the majority were pretty happy with their service, but we did find some differences in overall satisfaction," said Consumer Reports' David Heim.
Subscribers were most satisfied with the service from AT&T WorldNet, BellSouth, and Earthlink. They were least satisfied with MSN, Compuserve and AOL.
"We also found that people who use AT&T Worldnet had the easiest time getting online and they were able to surf the Net quickly," Heim said.
MSN users had the most difficult time getting online and were least satisfied with its e-mail service. AOL's big problem was interuptions. Compuserve and MSN scored worst in customer support with BellSouth ranking first.
Who has the best deal? Consumer Reports also found AT&T WorldNet has the best array of low-cost plans, including $14.95 a month for 150 hours, so if you like surfing the web, it is worth checking out all your options.
Microsoft is heavily pushing its MSN online service. For $21.95 a month, you get unlimited Internet access and MSN Explorer. However, you can get Explorer free of charge. It also includes the Hotmail e-mail service and the travel site Expedia.