In early 1994 I met Jerome Lecat through Joel Maloff (CICNet) who knew that my wife was a French oceanographic researcher and that I spent time in France. Jerome said he was interested in starting an ISP in Paris, something I had also thought of doing as a result supercomputer consulting work I did for Ecole Polytechnique. I felt Jerome’s business acumen was excellent, and his family had the necessary political connections to insure success. I agreed to take charge of the technical half of the startup, and to perhaps provide a little business guidance as well, based on my MRNet success.
After 18 months of operations, the usual midnight debugging sessions, peering wars, and ups and downs due to strikes and cashflow problems, Internet-Way achieved break-even at $2M annual revenue. We were then providing high quality professional leased line, dial-up, and ISDN Internet and WWW services through POPs in Paris, Bordeaux, Les Ulis, Sophia, Nice, Toulouse, and Rennes. We were the 2nd largest ISP in France after France Telecom itself, were involved in building the first commercial internet exchange in France (MAE Paris, with MFS), and in building a unique cached multicast satellite overlay.
By 1997 we felt the stakes and need for capital were getting higher, and I was able facilitate the sale of I-Way through acquaintances like Bill Schrader (PSINet) and Alan Taffel (UUNet) in the US. Jerome, one of the best bargainers I have met, finally closed a deal with UUNet that summer, and I-Way became UUNet France.
Here is a version of a presentation I did for a meeting with UUNET management in Fairfax in 1996 or so that gives a snapshot of what an ISP in France looked like at that time.
In 1996 we contributed 8Mbps of US bandwidth to Interop Paris by using the Orion-1 satellite, at a time when 2Mbps to the US cost in excess of $25,000/mo. The Interop NOC team was pleased: “best connectivity any Interop in Europe has ever had” (C. Kiennert, show manager), “It’s extremely fast” (Martin Terpstra). Here is the a fancy picture of our stand that year, you can just see a copy of my 1857 transatlantic cable map on the wall to the left of the tree… I must have told the story of the “little network the could” a million times….
In reality, Interop Paris looked like this (fewer Birkenstocks and blue jeans than a US Interop) 🙂
This Interop success built on the satellite based multicast cached network I was building at Internet-Way. Because of the high cost of transatlantic bandwidth at that time, and after extensive Excel modeling, I designed a network that delivered US bandwidth directly to the POPs, thereby bypassing expensive E-1 lines within France and allowing highly economical load balancing between the POPs.
This was the beginning of the Internet “insanity”… people were predicting growth beyond reason.. so I used one of my Wife’s curve fitting programs for predicting growth.. it turned out to be pretty accurate…