The Open Door Networks Story

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By Alan Oppenheimer

I left Apple in late 1994 to move to Ashland and start an Internet provider (ISP). I had worked on dial-up networking at Apple, and the Internet was just starting, so a dial-up Internet company for Macs seemed like a good idea. I started Open Door Networks here at the same time as some SOU graduates started InfoStructure. 

Open Door had an amazingly fast 56Kbps “frame relay” Internet connection which we parceled out to a bunch of 9.6K dial-up modems. Eventually we upgraded to a blazingly fast T-1 line at 1.5Mbps. My wife Priscilla kept her “real” job working for Cisco, doing much of that work remotely through a similar “high speed” line.

A couple years later, we heard about a city-led effort to investigate building a fiber-optic based broadband Internet and TV network, and signed up right away to help. Challenges with both technical and political, but we were ultimately able to bring broadband to the city of Ashland years before the big providers would have ever gotten around to it. A 1Gbps fiber optic ring with multi-megabit cable modem connections (now multi-hundred-megabit), the Ashland Fiber Network we help build in turn jump-started a large number of Internet and technology-based businesses years before those would have started here otherwise (if at all).

AFN is an “open” network, and it was a natural for Open Door Networks to become one of the ISPs providing Internet service using it. No more dial-up modems for us. We focused on what we knew, and thus were one of the first Macintosh broadband ISPs in the country. We helped the city with the initial rollout through early 2000. At the same time, Apple and others were just coming out with high-speed wireless networking, now universally known as WiFi. In concert with Project A, we used AFN to install a free wireless Internet connection in the downtown Starbucks, creating perhaps the first wireless Starbucks anywhere. AFN-based WiFi took off, and a few years later we used that WiFi to stream the July 4 parade live from a float in that parade. Too much fun.

Open Door Networks went on to do a whole lot more with broadband, including creating a firewall to keep people safe as more and more of the city got onboard. When the iPhone came out in 2007, the whole game changed again, and we transitioned most of our development to that platform and the iPad that followed. The result was our app and e-commerce company, Art Authority. Our AFN broadband work had positioned the city for the Internet wave, and the Internet wave has positioned our Ashland-based company, and many others, for past, present, and future success.

We’re really looking forward to seeing that future.

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