Written on 2019-01-14
They are the example of how it should be, the Dutch ISP called XS4ALL. They were bought in ’98 by the former state-owned KPN, but continued to operate independently. Born from a group of hackers and the first ISP in the Netherlands, today they are still the example that we measure other ISPs by.
A few days ago, KPN announced they were going to “let go of the brand”. It is not about the brand, of course. It is a euphemism which means XS4ALL will be shut down.
Tens of thousands of customers (and really, the Netherlands is not that large, neither is XS4ALL, and we don’t usually support commercial companies out of the kindness of our hearts) signed a petition for XS4ALL to stay and many more took to social media.
Has your ISP ever sued anyone for you? XS4ALL successfully sued spammers to create case law for not having to deliver their messages and get damages from them. When Scientology sued them for not taking down a customer’s free homepage, they resisted on the customer’s behalf and won again.
Has your ISP rolled out IPv6 as early as 2010? Do you get a /48 as per the standard, which contains more IPv6 addresses than there exist IPv4 addresses, or does your ISP give you /64 (a single subnet)?
Has your ISP ever joined another ISP in a lawsuit because the Dutch MAFIAA (collective of movie and music rights holders called Stichting BREIN) sued them over blocking The Pirate Bay? BREIN sued Ziggo to force a block, since they were the largest ISP at the time and would set a good example. XS4ALL saw it as an attempt to censor the Internet (if you block one, where does it stop?) and went “if you sue one, you will have to sue us all”.
Has your ISP helped in relief efforts like providing dial-up numbers for people in Libya and Egypt when their governments censored their Internet?
XS4ALL is a commercial company. They never competed on price, but the price difference is not large. If you have a question about how DNS works, you can give them a call: not only has the support desk always been knowledgeable enough to tell you that, in 2010 they also started advertising that you could call their Internet Helpdesk (‘Internet Vraagbaak’) with any random technical question like “how do I upload a video from my phone to YouTube?” Their support is widely known for being the best, their connections are known for good uptime (back when that was more uncommon in particular), and they earned a lot of “best ISP” awards.
Why is it a big deal that XS4ALL stops? Surely there are more? Well, not that I know of. Tweak, born from Tweakers.net (a locally extremely well-known tech forum and news site), has some similar ideals but is not on par technically (e.g. only offers IPv6 as a configurable tunnel) nor ideologically (no lawsuits or so that I know of). I lived in Belgium for a while, a country that still has data caps on landline connections, and moved to Germany last year. I have not been able to find an ISP even remotely equivalent across three countries. I looked at local ones, expensive ones, business accounts, but nobody has a track record that comes even close. To complete their profile, let me throw in some more XS4ALL facts:
XS4ALL hosts the the European copy of the Internet Archive since 2004. When I was in their datacenter I saw the box (it has a nice Internet Archive label), but did not realize that it was a complete copy.
They offer a free ssh box (see ‘shell server’) for you to use with only a fair use policy.
Through the service center (a webinterface to manage your connection), they allow you to configure the reverse DNS record for your IP address. This is very handy for hosting mail servers, but also just generally neat.
They contributed to open source software like Roundcube because they use it and wanted to share back. Not only with money, but also by contributing other resources and open source plugins.
The router they ship costs >250 euros, but they charge you only 10 bucks shipping. It’s not some locked down rebranded stuff like with most other ISPs, it’s the real deal: your router, you configure it how you want it.
And what ISP gives you a symmetrical fiber connection, opens all ports even before net neutrality kind of required it (not blocking TCP port 25 for example), and tell you to do whatever you want? When I called them to ask if it’s okay if I host a website on there, they were perfectly chill with it and gave me the go-ahead without hesitation, also if it would use a lot of the available bandwidth.
If this goes through, it will be a loss not only for our connections, but also for their contributions to society.
Heck, I was signing that petition myself and scrolled down a little too far. Guess what petities.nl says in their footer?
“Hosting sponsored by XS4ALL.”
That is the ISP I want to continue to support.