AOL, MSN Earn Low Marks in Consumer Reports Survey

Roy Mark

Updated · Aug 14, 2001

The latest Consumer Reports survey of dial-up Internet consumers gives low marks to America Online, Inc., and Microsoft Corp. (NASDAQ:MSFT), the nation’s two largest Internet service providers. With a best possible overall satisfaction score of 100, Microsoft’s MSN rated last with a 67, with AOL one click better with a 68. AOL’s bargain brand, CompuServe, tied with MSN for last.

AT&T’s WorldNet service led the ratings with a 78, followed by BellSouth (76), EarthLink (76), Prodigy (73), Qwest (70), AOL, CompuServe and MSN.

The Dulles, Va.-based AOL, the wholly-owned subsidiary of AOL Time Warner (NYSE:AOL), was ranked “worse” for connection interruptions while also receiving low marks for speed and support. MSN earned “worse” scores for connection availability and e-mail, in addition to a low score for support.

AT&T’s WorldNet got the best marks for connection availability and speed.

The ratings were based on 1,640 responses to a nationally representative sample of individuals who have Internet access through a dial-up connection, typically with a 56K modem.

The price of the service was the most commonly cited response for choosing an ISP (32 percent), followed by a friend’s recommendation (26 percent).

When users switched ISPs, it was most often because of a troublesome phone connection. The specific reasons respondents gave for switching ISPs included connection interruptions (35 percent), slow connections (31 percent) and difficulty in making connections because of busy phone lines (29 percent).

Despite its low marks, AOL respondents showed loyalty to the U.S.’ most expensive dial-up service because of AOL’s ease of use; huge subscriber base, making for a large pool of chat rooms and other forums for people to share like interests; and parental controls.

Reprinted from

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