Then in 1994, American InfoMetrics became
Now, 19 years later, American InfoMetrics is pulling the plug, bidding goodbye to its final 100 or so customers. It's closing down this week.
"We did actually feel like the pioneers, with arrows sticking out of our backs," said Andrew Goreff, who started AI with his wife, Barbara.
He remembers how
"Banks didn't understand us. They thought the Internet was a wacky idea and wouldn't give us a loan," said Goreff, 60, who was a computer systems analyst for the city of
Goreff began helping a few early adopters get email through a
"Andrew has always been cutting-edge. He was really enthusiastic and got a lot of people interested in it," Osner realled. "But email was really new and not available generally back then unless you were affiliated with an academic institution."
That changed when AI opened in downtown
"I really credit them with bringing the Internet as a common culture item to
Getting a high-tech company going in a low-tech community wasn't easy.
"The first thing we did was to open up a classroom in our office where we conducted classes about what email was and how to use the Internet," said Goreff, who now teaches technology classes at
Within months, AI began helping local businesses and nonprofit organizations launch websites.
By 1995, several other companies began offering Web connections in
But AI remained a local leader. Goreff said that between 1999 and 2001, his company had about nine employees and served around 1,500 customers -- including many
The dial-up connections AI provided would seem impossibly slow by today's standards, but Goreff said that "they were great before there was so much multimedia content online."
Back then photos could take many minutes to download, and streaming video was unheard of.
"Then DSLs came along, and that changed everything," Goreff said. Digital subscriber lines provided significantly faster broadband access to the Web, and Internet users craved the download speeds they enabled.
But big telephone companies, Goreff said, made it too expensive for small Internet companies like his to own their own DSL lines. Then cable TV companies began offering broadband connections through cable lines.
"The writing was on the wall," Goreff said. "We all really got addicted to the speed."
About 2004, he said, most customers started switching away from the dial-up connections offered by small ISPs to the high-speed service offered by telecommunication giants.
AI's customer base dwindled. It closed its downtown
A dedicated group of subscribers has continued paying for the company's email-only service, primarily so they could retain their @ainet.com addresses. About 100 of those email customers (including Osner) remained this month when the company announced it was closing.
"Several current issues are making it necessary to expedite this process," Barbara Goreff wrote in a notice to AI's customers. "
Barbara Goreff also explained how AI's "upstream hosting company, after 12 years, will not negotiate a lower minimum monthly fee."
The Goreffs are helping their customers transition to alternative services.
Only a couple of local Internet service providers remain.
Salida's Fire2Wire offers fixed-point wireless broadband connections to
"We've had to stay up with cutting-edge technologies to stay healthy as a business," said
Andrew Goreff acknowledged "Fire2Wire's timing was very good" as it focused on providing wireless connections to rural locations.
Another remaining local ISP is called
Bee staff writer
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