ISN to be Acquired by Eastlink: The Kevin O’Brien Exit Interview

Customers of Charlottetown-based Internet provider ISN began to get word this week that the company is about to be acquired by Nova Scotia-based Eastlink. The sale represents the end of a 14 year project for ISN’s founder Kevin O’Brien.

Kevin and I first met in the spring of 1993. We were essentially doing the same job — taking resources to the Internet — for two different sectors; Kevin was working for the PEI Federation of Agriculture and I was working for the PEI Crafts Council. What began with innocuous conversations about technology that spring led eventually, 18 months later, to the creation of ISN: I, in essence, goaded Kevin into creating his own ISP and was his unofficial technical co-conspirator in the early days.

Over ISN’s colourful history there haven’t been many projects I’ve engaged in, from my work with the Crafts Council to the founding of Digital Island and my work with the PEI Government, to my Okeedokee partnership to Dave Moses to my current setup sharing ISN bandwidth with silverorange, where ISN hasn’t played a pivotal role. The consumption of the company by Eastlink thus represents not only the end of a project for Kevin, but also the disappearance of a human-scale bandwidth provider for the Island. Things will never be the same.

As many of the early conversations where the seeds of ISN were planted took place at The Noodle House here in Charlottetown, Kevin and I returned to the scene of the crime to record a series of conversations about ISN past, present and future. We began with a discussion of what has happened, what’s ahead for existing ISN customers, and you can listen to this in the first of what will eventually be three podcast episodes/

In future episodes we’ll talk about how ISN got started, and about some of the misadventures along the way.


jypsy's picture
jypsy on January 23, 2008 - 02:41 Permalink

Isn’t this just dandy. I’ve been an ISN client since their first year of business and this is the first I’ve heard of this. Now, because I’m still stuck on dial-up (in spite of much begging), I’m not going to know any more because podcasts and dialup are a painful combination. What ever happened to those long letters Kevin used to email us when major developments were happening? As I just told them (in my most recent begging for high speed) “However, because I support who you are and what you’re about, I have always kept my ISN account.” Is there any reason I should keep that account now? Is this development the reason my last 2 emails went unanswered I wonder……. Customer Service used to be the very best……

Kevin's picture
Kevin on January 23, 2008 - 08:56 Permalink

The only way an email to me would have gone unanswed is if it got clobbered by anti-spam, I answer all emails and return all calls. And yes, customer service, is likely to fall. And who is Jypsy?

Kevin's picture
Kevin on January 23, 2008 - 09:04 Permalink

Oh, as for the long letter thing — this is it. I’ll probably send out a note to everyone with a link to this.

Kevin's picture
Kevin on January 23, 2008 - 09:12 Permalink

Ahhh, Jypsy, (1997/06/04), now I know who Jypsy is. Sorry, I didn’t get an email from you so it must have been clobbered by the anti-spam. What can I say, few have done more with an ISN dial account than you!

jypsy's picture
jypsy on January 23, 2008 - 12:49 Permalink

And if you look, it was jjbain prior to that. I’ve been around since before ‘97. “This is it”? “This” being the podcast/Peter’s post? Ask Katherine about my last 2 emails or email me and I’ll send them to you.

Steven Garrity's picture
Steven Garrity on January 23, 2008 - 18:05 Permalink

Very informative. Thanks.

jypsy's picture
jypsy on January 23, 2008 - 18:53 Permalink

runs 25:20, loads in 2:39:00…

Kevin's picture
Kevin on January 23, 2008 - 19:59 Permalink

Yes Janet, this is it. The podcast explains how this came unexpectedly. I always wondered what happened to “jjbain”. It’s been inspirational learning about your projects and challenges over the years. All the best to you and Alex.

faith-marie mckenney's picture
faith-marie mckenney on January 24, 2008 - 02:55 Permalink

Hi Kevin,
What does this mean for you? Retirement or another job in another field or are you going to be part of the Eastlink conglomerate. Whatever your future holds Douglas and I wish you the very best. Will we have to change our e-mail address to something new. Is it good to stay with the takeover group or should I switch to a new company?

Kevin's picture
Kevin on January 25, 2008 - 14:00 Permalink

Hi Faith — despite what CBC reported “no immediate changes” which should have been “no changes” and last night on Compass “has been sold” (I’d like to know who told them that!)… anyway. For the record, they called me but because I am literally sick of public attention I couldn’t talk to them (the blogsphere seems more friendly).

No changes, ISN is still ISN, it will be ISN — email, support, domians, phoning the office… all that remains exactly the same.

Eastlink saved ISN’s life back in 2001 when they brought rationality to pricing and service in the telephone sector so in effect they are just buying an asset they’ve been supporting for years. If you guys get half the service from them that I did you’ll be fine (and I think they want to do better than half).

Anyway, if you don’t hear it directly from me, please don’t believe it there’ll be a million ‘coffee shop’ stories flying around and they are all bullshit unless they are me. I am continually amazed at how ingeneously they get stuff wrong in the broadcast media. To say “no immediate change” would leave many thinking that there are “non-immediate changes” coming. There ain’t! These guys are communications professionals, they know the impact of a word — or a word left out — I expect (I demand) better from them.

And while I’m at it, why is the sale of ISN a news story in the first place. If I bought the car-wash in North River it wouldn’t make the news even though it would cost me about two or three times what I’ll be getting for ISN.

jypsy's picture
jypsy on January 26, 2008 - 14:04 Permalink

And while I’m at it, why is the sale of ISN a news story in the first place. If I bought the car-wash in North River it wouldn’t make the news even though it would cost me about two or three times what I’ll be getting for ISN.”

1) The North River car wash isn’t the only Island owned car wash.
2) The North River car wash does not have a collection of happy, loyal customers who have been paying it every month for (in my case) over a dozen years.
3) The North River car wash doesn’t have the fabulous reputation ISN has for great customer service (does anyone?!)
3) People don’t identify themselves to the world as being a customer of the North River car wash every time they communicate online.

Maybe it’s news because so many of us care. It’s not about the money Kevin, it’s a story best suited to a full front page spread in the “Lifestyles” section of the Guardian, not that little “business” page.
ISN is so much more than a car wash…

Doug Dennis's picture
Doug Dennis on February 5, 2008 - 18:42 Permalink

Please add one more to the count of customers sorry to see a change. I’ve had an account since 1993 and have always been delighted with the pleasant and efficient staff in both the office and customer support. Very few businesses can can keep a customer happy for 14 years!

All the best in the future.

Ifo's picture
Ifo on January 15, 2013 - 02:41 Permalink

HI there,

Great interview .. where can i find the other parts of it?