Local ISP going offline

HoosierNet shuts down Sept. 1

Local Internet service provider HoosierNet will shut down Sept. 1. The not-for-profit ISP announced recently it will soon cease operations after 11 years in the community.

Cheap broadband alternatives have eroded its customer base. And since around 2003, the glut of reasonably priced DSL options has kept away new customers.

David Ernst, executive director for HoosierNet Inc., said the decision is a straightforward matter of diminished revenues. National providers now offer many competing services at lower costs than would be needed just to recoup expenses.

The market for HoosierNet's flagship dial-up service has dried up completely.

HoosierNet was incorporated in 1994 and up and running a year later. It was founded out of a concern that the Bloomington market was too small to attract the investment of for-profit ISPs.

At the time, national providers like Prodigy and CompuServe billed hourly connection fees and required long-distance phone charges.

Though household Internet availability spread quickly and widely in the mid-1990s, HoosierNet continued to thrive in a crowded marketplace. Offering Web site hosting and free e-mail accounts, it grew expansively as the decade wound down.

Though it rolled out its own DSL service in 2003, competition proved too fierce. HoosierNet couldn't price competitively, and its membership base dwindled to about a thousand.

The not-for-profit now focuses on a smooth transition for its loyal customer base. It is now in talks to transfer the domain bloomington.in.us to another host, allowing users to keep their e-mail accounts and Web sites.

Ernst said an announcement should be made in another week or two, as soon as a deal is reached, but he's confident the domain will remain valid.

HoosierNet hosts more than 4,000 e-mail accounts, though many have been inactive for some time. Though it does not endorse any specific Web hosting providers, it points users in the direction of several companies offering local service, including Defcon1 and Dragonpress.

HoosierNet promises technical help with all transition issues and maintains a Frequently Asked Questions advisory on its home page. It promises frequent updates as the situation develops.

"We want this to go as smoothly as possible to thank all our loyal members," Ernst said. "We consider ourselves fortunate to have worked with the community for this long."

HoosierNet employs five staff members, two of whom have already lined up new jobs. It occupies office space on the third floor of the Monroe County Public Library, as part of a longtime partnership.

No plans exist for the space.

Many have expressed disappointment over HoosierNet's dissolution, but Ernst said it has served its purpose and run its course in an evolving landscape.

"It's the state of the market," he said. "I'm sure many of our users will be able to find what they need cheaper."

For more information, visit http://www.bloomington.in.us/questions.html.

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