Big Doesn’t Always Mean Best

In the September home-computing cover story of Yonkers, N.Y.-based Consumer Reports, users of dial-up Internet services rate their favorite ISPs. The result? While AOL laid claim to the largest user base by far, consumers were “less satisfied” with the online behemoth–along with fellow big-name ISPs Compuserve and MSN–than with that of other services.

The study, which incorporated a national sampling of 1,640 individuals, rated consumer preferences according to overall satisfaction, connection availability, speed and interruptions, support, e-mail and downloads. Among the leaders in overall satisfaction were AT&T WorldNet, BellSouth, Earthlink and Prodigy.

According to the report, consumers chose AOL primarily to communicate with friends (though, as the report also noted, one can use AOL’s instant messaging service without being an AOL member) and to gain access to AOL’s user-friendly browser. But users complained about AOL’S interrupted connections and criticized the ISP’s pokey connection speed.–Sid Ross

–AOL’s user base claims some 23 million consumers–four times that of its nearest competitor

–Users of MSN Internet Access were “notably less satisfied overall” with the service than users of other more highly rated ISPs.