AOL are a large international ISP
in legal terms) whose product is exempt from VAT
, allowing them some headway in undercutting their rivals. They offer an unmetered
dialup service from (virtually) any UK address although metering may be involved if your phone line is provided by one of the more unscrupulous telco's (e.g. the ones in many university halls of residence
They do not require you to use proprietary email or browser software. They do not disconnect you after a period of inactivity. They do not block any ports, although they transparently re-route outgoing SMTP traffic. Their services are about equal or slightly better in performance than FreeServe (now that's an evil company if ever there was one).
Having said all this, their service is occasionally completely shit, connecting at a snails pace and dropping you into limbo usually in the middle of a fraught deathmatch.
Most of the time it is OK however.
Apparently, allowing non-computer-literate people to use the internet (or at least the pertinent popular-interest subset thereof) is some kind of deeply offensive crime in the eyes of some technical people. A few years ago there was an arguable basis for such objections, but now it seems rather like snotty received prejudice. Especially when you consider that AOL is the cheapest (or only) option for unmetered internet access in some parts of this country.
Their much-maligned corporate anthropomorphisation, Connie, is played on television by model Rachel Willis, who is the sister of one of my ex-flatmates.