January 11, 2019

KPN axes Dutch Internet provider XS4ALL

Filed under: History,IT by Orangemaster @ 3:09 pm

It’s the end of an era: Owned by KPN, Dutch Internet pioneer XS4LL (a play on words of the pronunciation of ‘access for all’ by Dutch folks (the ‘x’ sounds like ‘ex’ and not ‘ax’ in Dutch, so ‘excess’ for all the non-Dutch) was founded back in 1993 and has very loyal clients. I write this knowing a lot of their clients, including my co-blogger Branko, and a lot of friends who either work or have worked there.

By loyal clients, I also mean they will not stay on with KPN after XS4ALL ceases to exist, but have also launched a petition to keep XS4ALL, which is not something you see everyday for a profit-making company. Chances are, it won’t change anything, but it will give you an idea of how much people care about the company.

And why is that? Well, XS4ALL was Internet-savvy before having Internet was a thing in the Netherlands. Apparently, it’s the third oldest Internet service provider (ISP) in the country, after NLnet and SURFnet. According to Wikipedia, XS4ALL was the second company to offer Internet access to private individuals, which was not a given when the Internet started to be a telecommunications staple. One of its founder is Rop Gonggrijp, a well-known hacktivist in international circles.

In the mid 2000s, XS4ALL was big, and one of the main reasons was because they gave really good service. You were talking to people who were all Internet fans, not just working stiffs with stupid answers. They helped win the battle against spam back when you would get 100 to 200 spam mails a day and fought a lot of other battles as well, winning quite a few.

XS4ALL was bought by KPN (the big Dutch provider) in December 1998, but stayed in its bubble to a certain extent until this year. KPN is now trying to convince its XS4ALL clients that ‘only the name will change’ and there’s nobody buying that, to the point were many loyal clients will change providers out of principle.

If you feel strongly enough about it, you can also sign the petition (in Dutch).

(Link: tweakers.net, Photo of XS4ALL head office by Pachango, some rights reserved)

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July 3, 2017

Renzo Piano’s KPN Tower in Rotterdam gets expansion

Filed under: Architecture by Orangemaster @ 10:42 pm

The leaning tower designed by Renzo Piano at the foot of Rotterdam’s Erasmus bridge overlooking the Maas River was completed in 2000, and is now set to undergo extensive renovation and expansion as part of the company’s relocation from The Hague to Rotterdam. The renovations will be led by Rotterdam firm V8 Architects, which has involved Piano in the decision-making process.

With a new 20 year lease agreement for the building, KPN have the opportunity to add further enhancements to what is already a distinctive building. The intention is to achieve this in a sustainable manner, creating viable future workplaces from existing offices in the country. The core of the project seeks to maintain the identity and integrity of the existing tower with interventions.

With construction underway, work on the KPN Tower’s renovations is set to be completed by the end of 2017 when we can do a before and after kind of thing. The other notable Piano building in the Netherlands is the Nemo Science Centre in Amsterdam, built in 1997, which is also on the water.

(Link: archdaily.com, Photo of Rotterdam, KPN building by Roel Wijnants, some rights reserved)

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June 29, 2013

Dutch postal strike ends after reaching an agreement

Filed under: History by Branko Collin @ 3:10 pm

I write this while waiting for a package to be delivered by PostNL which could take a while because the strike at the package delivery division of the former Dutch state monopolist ended yesterday and the delivery people still have a backlog to contend with.

Since its privatisation PostNL seems to have dealt with a constant flow of bad press by changing its name every five years. The company started out as Koninklijke PTT (‘koninklijke’ means ‘royal’). In 1996 it became TPG Post and in 1998 the telephone and mail divisions split into two companies, the former getting the name KPN, the latter becoming TNT, Wikipedia says. TNT later became PostNL. (There are actually solid reasons for all the name changes, but those solid reasons only highlight the company being adrift.)

Nobody seems to know why the former state rail monopolist Nederlandse Spoorwegen (which is still a monopolist, just no longer legally so) messes up all the time, but at least with PostNL there seems to be a couple of reasons. The rise of the Internet appears to have killed off much of the need for mail and the liberalization of the postal market makes it so that when in the past a house was passed by one postal worker a day, now it’s several. PostNL responded to the rising cost of labour by hiring cheaper workers. They gave it a nice spin by labelling the process “[offering] jobs for people distant from the labour market“.

In 2012 PostNL decided to pay their workers for overtime; before that workers were being paid for a mythical number of hours that they should be working according to some bean counter rather than the number of hours they actually worked. In the same year Dutchnews.nl reported that the “Dutch jewellers and goldsmiths’ federation has advised its members to stop using PostNL to deliver packages because so many disappear en route to their destination”.

This week’s strike is fairly unique. PostNL is responsible for delivering about 70% of the packages, but hands those packages over to smaller one-person delivery companies. The people who strike are not employed and therefore not unionised, which means that they strike on their own dime. The largest Dutch union, FNV, decided to help out with the negotiations nevertheless, Omroep West writes. The union is also labelling the workers as ‘schijnzelfstandigen’, self-employed people that in reality work for just one customer without receiving the many benefits and protections employees have under Dutch law. RTL Nieuws reports that online stores have suffered millions in damages because of the strike.

The agreement between PostNL and its freelancers states a new rate for delivery of packages and the setting up of a grievances committee that the freelancers can use to complain about working conditions, Dutchnews.nl reports.

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April 19, 2012

KPN discriminated with its ‘Dutch only’ discount

Filed under: Weird by Orangemaster @ 2:42 pm

KPN telecom recently had a ‘50% off for 100% Dutch’ advertising campaign that got some French people living in The Netherlands properly pissed off. The French popped into a KPN store to apply for the discount and were turned away for not being Dutch, which is discriminatory and illegal on a European scale.

And, like many Dutch companies and individuals do when they mess up, they call it a ‘misunderstanding’. KPN claims that the software for its ‘Hi’ mobile phone plan had been unfortunately programmed to accept only Dutch passport numbers for ID purposes and not resident permit numbers, which is commonplace. It is sad how the sales rep thought it was normal to turn someone of another nationality down for a discount. Actually it’s scary.

I have no reason to ever do business with KPN and I think they’ve just given me another reason to make sure that’s permanent.

(Links: www.rtl.nl, ftalphaville.ft.com, Tip: Matt (thanks!) )

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October 22, 2011

Phone companies may not let thugs force teenagers to buy subscriptions

Filed under: General,Technology by Branko Collin @ 4:03 pm

A type of crime that I had not heard of before is that Dutch teenagers are being forced by peers to buy them expensive mobile phone subscriptions. Back in February consumer watchdog show Kassa reported that this sort of thing happens on a large scale.

Stores that sell these subscriptions tend to close their eyes to this problem. Arnoud Engelfriet reported two weeks ago that in a surprising verdict, a judge said that even though they are not a party to the crime, telecom companies can still not hold the victims to these crimes to the contracts they entered into.

An eighteen year old girl from Rotterdam was forced under threat of violence to enter into several contracts with KPN subsidiary Telfort. Dutch law says that if you entered a contract under threat, you can rescind the contract. The court also weighed heavily that forcing teenagers to buy cellphones and mobile subscriptions is a common enough practice that Telfort should have been suspicious, especially now the victim bought five subscriptions at five different stores in a single day, which is uncommon.

(Photo by Macinate, some rights reserved)

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January 12, 2011

KPN phone booth to disappear for good

Filed under: General by Orangemaster @ 12:43 pm

Back in 2008 ex phone company monopoly KPN was reducing the number of pay phones from the streets, only leaving some in places with a high concentration of elderly people. In fact, KPN was legally obliged to still have one pay phone per 5,000 inhabitants until 2008. Now it’s time to get rid of them altogether because the mobile phone has made them obsolete. I can’t imagine it’s easier for the elderly to even find let alone use a pay phone with the cards and codes.

The picture here is a stack of phone booths in Haarlem across from the Carlton Square Hotel.

(Link: dutchnews, Photo of KPN phone booth art by Shirley de Jong, some rights reserved)

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July 5, 2009

Providers not eager to (multi)play

Filed under: Online by Branko Collin @ 1:38 pm

Four years ago I wrote a piece for the Teleread blog called “Consumers won’t (multi)play.” It told about how telecom providers had lined up all these great packages that combined television, internet access, and telephony. No more hassle with double or triple contracts and bills, just one easy, clean, simple package from a single provider. And the consumer wouldn’t have it, for reasons that remained unclear.

Well, it appears that consumers have finally started to make the move towards a single bill, and I have been caught up in the drift. My internet access provider of many years sent me a rather threatening letter, telling me to get with the program or else… The situation there has been rather more convoluted than elsewhere. My provider offered ADSL before the phone company did (former monopolist KPN), and as a result its customers had to have a contract both with the internet provider, and the phone company (which provided the physical lines).

Later the provider somehow acquired the possibility to offer ADSL without forcing the customer to tango with KPN (I don’t know why, I presume this has to do with some sort of liberalisation of the phone lines), and now it understandably wants to move all its customers that couldn’t be arsed to go the single bill route. So this is the sugar with which they are trying to coax us: “If you don’t move, we’ll raise the price of your subscription.” Naturally, I have been checking out the competition.

Oddly enough, the competition doesn’t seem to be too eager to take me on as a new customer.

UPC offers a handy looking tool to select your package with a great promise: they’ll pay for the cheapest of the three services. But you don’t even have to click around to realize that it’s pretty much the price of the internet service you choose that determines the final cost. Still, you have to choose all the premium deluxe services with all the bells and whistles and free champagne and hookers for a year to get at a price that’s substantially higher than what you would pay at the competition. Wait, there’s some dirt on the screen. Hm, I cannot get it off. Would it be …? Yes, it’s the tiny print that informs of all the extra costs that add 50% to your bills for many moons to come.

All this dancing around the do to hide the true costs.

KPN, that good old phone company, also offers triple play, and they also dance around. They’ve got a couple of special offers lined up right now that make their Basic and Premium package look much better than their Lite package. Well, for the first three months that is. Again, what’s with the deception? Why not give everybody the premium service for three months, and the choice to switch back for free after that?

Telegraaf reports (Dutch) that a change in the Telecommunications law last Wednesday no longer allows contracts to be silently renewed without the customer’s explicit consent, and predicts this change is going to cause a price war in the telecom world. Price comparison whizz-kid Ben Woldring tells the paper consumers can save hundreds of euros a year. So far, I have not noticed any participant who seems to take this war seriously.

Illustration: UPC’s two-out-of-three picker always yields pretty much the same price depending on the internet component you choose.

Illustration: If KPN’s premium packages are cheaper than their Lite package, why do they offer the latter at all?

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July 4, 2008

Phone booth to disappear from streets

Filed under: General by Branko Collin @ 11:02 am

Having gotten permission from the government, KPN, the Dutch phone company, is going to reduce the number of its already less familiar green triangular phone booths, reports Blik op Nieuws (Dutch). Until now the government obliged the former state monopolist to provide one phone booth per 5,000 citizens in towns with more than 5,000 inhabitants.

Use of the KPN phone booths dropped about 76% between 2000 and 2006. A whopping 95% of the people have stopped using the booths altogether, preferring to use one of the 17 million mobile phones instead (out of a population of 16 million), according to the news site.

I remember phone booths being ubiquitous, square and something other than green (bright red or yellow, I forget—this was in the 1970s). To me it never seemed there were many of the newer models to begin with. KPN is apparently going to keep a couple of booths around, for instance where they believe the elderly still need them.

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