Wednesday, May 01, 2013

BPN 1634: Twenty years internet access for Dutch consumers

It is not clear who the first Dutch supplier of Internet access for consumers was. In 1992 there were only 239 companies users of the internet systems of service providers (ISPs) such as XS4ALL, NLnet, Knoware and IAE. For example, a company would pay for a subscription 100 guilders  (45.50 euros) to XS4ALL. The number of companies connected to the Internet was not large, because the internet online system was only known by small group of entrepreneurs, mostly university graduates. Entrepreneurs outside this group did not have any idea of ​​the Internet and were linked to other systems such as Videotex Netherlands, ASCII databases and email systems as Low Cost Linking.
The  ISPs were really yet interested in consumers. The ISPs did not have the marketing machines and helpdesks. If a consumer accidentally wandered by and wanted to have a subscription, h/she would get it, but without a manual. All that started to change in 1992.
XS4ALL arose from the organization Hack-Tic, a group of people that exchanged hackers tricks, tips and files with each other. The organization initially made use of the facilities of the University of Amsterdam. But the university stopped the group from using its computernetwork. So that was the time Hac-Tic started  the foundation XS4ALL.

From 1992 XS4ALL started to accept members of the Hobby Computer Club (HCC) besides companies. And early 1993 the management decided to accept consumers. So 20 years ago on May 1, 1993 XS4ALL started to offer consumers access to its servers for 30 Dutch guilders (roughly 13 euro) a month . XS4ALL was the first ISP who started to take consumers seriously. They management predicted that  50 subscribers would sign on the first day. By the evening of May 2nd, 1993 at 19.00h the ISP had registered 500 consumers. There was clearly a need for internet among consumers. The first wave of consumer subscribers might have been helped by an article about internet, which was published in the Dutch national morning daily De Volkskrant that day.
From May 1, 1993 the number of subscriptions to Internet for consumers increased steadily, but not by the hundreds. Until later in the year XS4ALL started to collaborate with the political and cultural centre De Balie in the project and the Digital City in Amsterdam. The project had been devised to promote the municipal elections in the spring of 1994. Apart from the local television, radio and print media, the Digital City would be part of the public debate. On Monday, January 17th 1994 the Digital City opened its doors. This project caught the fascination of  many of the  national media wonder and as a side effect  it generated a lot of publicity for internet. In 1994 alone this project generated eight television and radio fragments, starting with an interview with Frank de Grave and the mayor of the Digital City Marleen Stikker in the 8 o'clock news on January 15, 1994 according to the database of Sound and Vision. After six weeks the project had tallied up more than ten thousand registered users.
In 1996 the foundation created a company, which was sold to the incumbent telecom operator KPN in 1998. However XS4ALL remained independent as a subsidiary and now offers various internet access services such as ADSL, SDSL and fibre and via KPN information and entertainment packs.

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