Patrice Riemens on Fri, 28 May 1999 16:46:30 +0200 (CEST)

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nettime-nl: GoaNet interviewt XS4ALL'er Ray Selby

Dit stuk is in het Engels (komt uit Goa), maar gaat wel over een
Amsterdammer en ons eigen access for all! 

----- Forwarded message from goanet-digest -----

goanet-digest         Wednesday, May 26 1999         Volume 01 : Number 1444

In this issue:

    Internet Evangelist: Ray Selby

Date: Thu, 27 May 1999 00:52:54 +0500
From: Frederick Noronha <>
Subject: Internet Evangelist: Ray Selby

CyberIdealist: Ex-Hippy Ray Selby is now an Internet Evangelist

By Frederick Noronha

Ray Selby was a hippy for 15 years in Goa. In his life-after-
Asia, he became a customer, an employee and then a senior 
programmer at the Dutch alternative Internet service provider, 
called XS4ALL. Today, he's an evangelist for the Internet.

Selby strongly feels that access to communication to the 
commonman would make a world of a difference. Specially to places 
like Goa. Easy access to the Internet to everybody would make it 
easier to fight injustice, corruption and violence, says he.

"Winston Churchill once said, 'Jaw, jaw is better than war, war'. 
As soon as we start talking to each other, as soon as the entire 
world knows what is going on...then and only then will such 
negative forces be stopped," says he optimistically.

It's obvious he feels strongly on this point.

Says he: "If there's anything I personally can do to help to get 
access to everybody in India... I would like to see every 
rickshaw-walla in Bombay, every man on the beach in Goa, every 
sadhu-baba in the North, to be able to access the Internet."

But first let's begin at the beginning. How did Selby get 
involved with cyberspace?

XS4ALL is an interesting story. It aim is, what it's name says: 
providing access for all. It was founded by individuals working 
on a hackers' magazine called Hack-Tic. They were all on the 
Internet on the early days before it was public. So, five years 
ago, they decided to start giving Internet access to ordinary 
people -- just as it's happening now in India.

What makes XS4ALL so different from all the many Internet Service 
Providers (ISPs) offering cyberconnections at a price? 

"Now we are also famous for being the quality Internet service 
provider. We're not particularly cheap; we're also not expensive. 
But what we do is we give quality to people who are really into 
the Internet. Rather than the average man who just wants to send 
some email and browse the web," says Selby.

Two things make XS4ALL different from all other ISPs. 

"One is that we are activist. We stand for many, many really good 
causes. To give freedom of speech to people in the world," 
said Selby, during a recent visit to Goa.

For instance when a radio station in Yugoslavia was closed down, 
they wrote in to XS4ALL for help. The reply was: "We have 35 
people at your disposal. What do you want us to do?"  One day 
later a real audio server was up. This allows you to put up 
radio-type broadcasts via the Internet bypassing all censorship 
and controls. 

XS4ALL also helps activists in other ways. Every four years they 
have a big, big festival in which everybody can come and get free 
24 hour Internet access. They get such connections in their tent 
or their caravan. Links are established with people in other 
parts of the globe, through cyberspace. 

But is such optimism justified in these parts of the globe? 

Isn't costs of the Internet still prohibitively costly in the 
Third World? Buying a computer, phone-line, modem and Internet 
account still could take upto one year's salary for an average 
middle-class person.

"The most important thing is independent service providers. If 
the monopoly situation is not broken, access to everyone will 
never become a reality," says Selby, refusing to let his optimism 

And then, everyone need not have a computer at home. Maybe they 
could go to the post office, and pay five or ten rupees and send 
some emails, browse the web, enter any chat group. So they could 
tell the world what they have to say. This is Selby's solution to 
fighting the cost-barrier that has blocked free communication.

But, anyway, isn't the Internet still a luxury for a country like 
India? What comes first? Cyberaccess, classrooms, basic health 
care, or a full stomach?

Selby is not deterred by this argument either. In time, access is 
going to come through for millions. It is not a question of 
having to choose between cyberspace or basic necessities. In 
fact, as experience is already showing, cyberspace could make it 
easier for people to rise to their potential or meet basic needs. 

In a place like Goa, luxury hotels and business quarters are 
already using the Internet. "It's only the government and the 
class-system which would like to stop it, so as to maintain the 
status quo. But it's already there, they can't stop it," avers Selby. 

What about the view that the Internet could further widen the gap 
between information rich and info-poor?

Selby argues that the Internet should not be made into a luxury 
good. It must be a mass medium for everybody who wants it. 

Ordinary people can make web sites. Software-editor programs 
today make it simple enough for even non-technical persons to put 
out their own sites. "That opens enormous possibilities (in terms 
of communication possibilities)," says he. 

Says Selby: "Three years back, we had the same problems you'll 
have here. Internet was costly. Connectivity wasn't so good. Now, 
new technologies are coming in -- Internet can come in via cable. 
When we have fast bandwith, life becomes completely different."

Post offices, public libraries, even schools need access to 
Internet. As the prices keep going down slowly, as earlier 
generation equipment could be passed down to those who can't 

"We're talking about a period of say five years," says Selby. In 
that time, a lot could change in ways we can't even conceive of 
now. "Five years ago, there was nothing in Holland. Really 
nothing. When I browsed the web five years ago, there was nothing 
interesting there. I was on news-groups and the email," says he.

Today almost anybody in Holland can access the Internet. Through 
their railway stations. Every airport. There are publicphone-type 
email booths. Facilities can also be shared within communities. 

Don't governments fear empowering citizens? It's too late, says 
Selby. Governments have set the genie free. Five years ago, the 
governments in the West began talking about censoring and 
stopping the Internet. It was already too late by then. "There's 
already too much money floating around... they can't stop the 

And, finally, what has happened to XS4ALL?

"We simply won the fight," as Selby puts it. Internet has really 
proliferated in Holland. Just like one walks up to a phone booth, 
Amsterdam offers public Internet kiosks, where one can easily go 
up and check one's email. Or surf the 'Net.

Says he proudly: "We have 60,000 subscribers in Holland and 
Belgium. We now employ 110 people. Every single year since we 
started we almost doubled our size. Everybody in Holland knows we 
are the best. All the power-users know that."

"We have the best relay-chat server in Holland, we have the best 
server in Europe practically for news groups, we have a real 
audio server to give freedom of speech to the Yugoslavs," says 
Selby. Some months back, the telecom company in Holland bought up 
XS4ALL. "They wanted quality, so they bought us," says he. 

"We fight the fight in Europe. Somebody has to fight the fight in 
India. We can improve things through talking. And the best way of 
talking is through the Internet," says he. 

Ray Selby's prescription is: "When you find injustice, tell the 
world. They will stop. They cannot go on in the face of the 
world." (ENDS)

----- End of forwarded message from goanet-digest -----

----- End of forwarded message from Patrice Riemens -----
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