The biggest internet company in Teutonic Europe
In 2005 a few friends afforded me the opportunity to go snowboarding in Soelden, Austria. It was an exciting time, and one rich with new experiences. For instance, my German-speaking skills to date covered being able to ask, “Where is the frog throwing contest, please?”. I knew nothing of Austrian culture, nor of the etiquette or rules of being in the snow.
One day after a particularly gruelling set of lessons on the piste I popped down to the internet café in the village, in the interests of feeding my email addiction and ensuring that the outside world was still functioning. Perched on the front window of the shop was a list of the hours of when they were open for business, and the name of the shop. Seemed reasonable.
Later that night when we went out for dinner I noticed a small sign which appeared to indicate that the restaurant also offered internet access via the same company as the café between certain times. A bit odd, but nothing inconceivable.
Whilst up on the snowfield the next day I saw similar advertisements again on the monitors, and thought to myself “Wow, the guy who runs this networking business has got this whole town stitched right up!”.
The following year we went on another trip to Austria – this time to Kaprun – and to my surprise (although it’s not clear why this was a surprise) the internet café there was also run by the same company! It seemed a little odd that a national internet carrier wouldn’t have any consistent logo or branding on its signs, but as I said: I’m no expert on matters cultural. On the return journey for that trip we passed through Salzburg, and I saw signs for these internet access options everywhere.
The one thing that was consistently odd about it all was that with the exception of the internet cafés there never seemed to be any obvious evidence of computer terminals in any of these places. I briefly mused that perhaps it was some sort of wifi provision, but then it didn’t make sense as to why it would be time-limited like that.
I thought no more of it until Richie and I were back in Köln – presumably on the way back to another snow trip – and I saw the sign again, and went to ask him if he’d heard of this company. They were clearly a much larger organisation than I’d first suspected, as they covered not just Austria but also Northern Germany! As I started intoning my question, suddenly something dawned on me and my brain tried to shut it all down before something embarrassing happened – unfortunately as I’d already started making sound the end result must have sounded like, “Whyooooooooouuuuuuhhhhhaaaaaaaahhhhhhfuck”. The catalyst to this particular penny dropping was that I’d realised that 2 shops in a row were offering internet service by this company, and one of them was a butcher shop.
Richie said words along the lines of, “Are you attempting to communicate with me?”.
I sheepishly asked, “Geoffnet isn’t an internet service provider, is it?”.
He said, “Pardon?”.
I pointed to the sign.
“Tell me you just thought ‘geoffnet’ was an ISP”.
So, it turns out that the German word “geöffnet” means “opening hours”. And it isn’t a large ISP run by some bloke named Geoff.
Oh well, every day’s a school day.