there is an old legend that you can use the windows daler and manually dial into aol with a nation wide number..it's not an 800 number...I don't know if it's true, but it's also claimed the rates are lower if you do it that way
in aol 3.x and below you could use a dialer that was modified. i downloaded the ao-dialer from a weird website, and i didnt really trust it, but my friend setup a firewall to make sure it wasnt doing anything funny.. and it worked fine.
i dont think you can do it anymore, but hey, who knows.
I've asked this same question in several other forums and I was always told you have to run AOL's bloatware. Ugh. I hated it, which is why I'm happy as can be on cable!
I've even called AOL support and they had to go talk to a tech. You'd think this question would pop up often enough that they would have the answer handy. Anyway, they said it couldn't be done too. They also said they didn't have a version or method to connect in Linux. Another reason for the switch to cable.
And you know, broadband really isn't that much more expensive anymore.
Actually... not only is AOL trialling a dialer program that allows you to connect without loading their bloatware.. err, software... they're also trialling IMAP access to their email. Never thought that'd happen!