One of Ottawa's first internet service providers is still in business, offering dial-up service in a broadband world to 4,000 customers.

National Capital FreeNet, a not-for-profit that started in the mid-1990s, says many people use dial-up because they can't get high-speed where they live, only use the web for basic email, or can't afford a faster service.

NCF member Gary Dear is on a fixed income.

"Dial-up is slower than molasses compared to what most people are used to," he said, laughing.


National Capital FreeNet executive director, Ross Kouhi, right, says many people choose dial-up internet because they can't afford high-speed. (CBC)

But Dear, who lives in a subsidized apartment, said it's dial-up or nothing. NCF's service costs $5 a month.

"It means an opportunity to connect with life and the world around me," he said.

NCF's executive director, Ross Kouhi, says their small number of staff and volunteers also offer high-speed internet, at close to market prices, to subsidize the dial-up clients. 

"The customers that have high-speed tell us they kind of get that warm, fuzzy feeling knowing that we're a member of the community," Kouhi said.

NCF rents the high-speed infrastructure from Bell.

"We're certainly worried that a punitive pricing model, if Bell were to come out with one, could put us out of business pretty quickly," he said.

But Kouhi feels NCF's future looks bright, having just completed a successful fundraising campaign.

In 2010, four per cent of Canadians used dial-up, compared to 79 per cent who used broadband. The rest had no internet connection in their homes.