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America Online Warning!

by Adam C. Engst <ace@tidbits.com>

An alert reader writes to report on a phone call with America Online's tech support. Like many other people who have called, the phone person at first didn't know what our alert reader was talking about in relation to the America Online TCP/IP Internet access we reported on after hearing about it on Usenet. But after conferring with a supervisor, the tech support person came back and said that the Internet access was limited to beta testers who had signed up online (and presumably been accepted - I signed up, but as is standard with America Online, never heard a thing back). He said that if America Online caught any unauthorized people using the Internet access, they would be expelled from America Online.

The rationale for this Draconian punishment was that America Online doesn't have the capacity on its Internet links now to support more than the beta testers, and other people using the links will slow down the beta test and thus the release of the service to the public.

Although I respect America Online's right to limit this service to beta testers at the moment, I have little sympathy - if they post unprotected files on a publicly-accessible FTP site that requires no usernames or passwords, what do they think is going to happen? I test many products for which beta versions are distributed on the Internet, and in no case is everything laid open like America Online's Internet software.

Yet another reader passed on a letter from America Online that informed him that despite the fact that he was using the Internet to access America Online, the $12 per hour charge that covers the costs for the phone services to Hawaii, Alaska, Puerto Rico, and Canada still accrues. We strongly hope that America Online has the savvy to remove this silly policy once Internet access is generally available to its users.