Today, we release this eulogy in memorial of a milestone in Toronto's Internet community. Last Friday, January 24, Toronto's first Internet Service Provider for individuals, Internex Online, officially ceased to exist. Internex's parent company, ACCTel Enterprises, decided to close Internex and transfer all of its users to Internet Canada, another provider ACCTel acquired in May, 1996.
When Internex Online received their first call in 1993, talk about the Internet was little, and, for most, bulletin board systems and online services were the only telecommunication venues, as dedicated Internet connections were very expensive. There wasn't the hype there is today about the Information Superhighway or "the Net." Internex, however, quickly became a very affordable means for Torontonians to get connected.
Over the years, io developed a unique character as the place for hardcore UNIX geeks and Toronto Internet culture. A number of newspapers and radio stations had their first email addresses with io. Internex started io.Community, a program that gave charities free webspace. There were also regular io meets. As Internet popularity grew, Internex could not keep up with the demand. Internex paid for telephone lines that weren't connected to computers so users wouldn't hear busy signals.
On November 8, 1995, however, users heard "This line is no longer in service" from every phone line leading into Internex, including voice support. Internex could no longer pay the bills. Partly as a result of poor management, io was out of business, and eight thousand people were without Internet access.
This eulogy was almost written that November if Greenlight Communications didn't step in and purchase Internex. Greenlight already owned a provider, Internet Canada (or ICAN), and so any new users would sign up with them. Internex's rates were grandfathered, and its users kept their io.org address.
Running two providers in this fashion may not be financially sensible to some, and it wasn't to ACCTel Enterprises which eventually purchased ICAN and, along with it, the burden of Internex. Late last December, system administrators notified five thousand io customers that they had to register new userids with ICAN by January 24, 1997.
This marks the end of Internex Online and a very brief era in Toronto's Internet history. Since Internex's first signs of falling in 1995, the Internet business in T.O. has become more competitive, with large corporations like Rogers cable, Bell Canada's Sympatico, Netcom and ACCTel slowly encroaching on smaller Internet communities.
Internex Online July 1, 1993. Internex offline January 24, 1997.