Pipex is generally regarded as the first commercial Internet Service Provider that operated in the UK. The company was founded in 1990, and was instrumental in helping to develop the early infrastructure of the UK's Internet, most notable: the London Internet Exchange (LINX); operating one of the first transatlantic leased lines (64k); one of the first commercial ISPs to connect to JANET (an important research IP network in the UK); and hosting the BBC's early online services. The founder of Pipex was Peter Dawe, who in the 1980s owned a computer software resale business in Cambridge called Unipalm, and expanded the operations of Unipalm to include Pipex.
(Pictured: Pipex logo, the UK's first commercial ISP)
Unipalm began life with humble beginnings: being based in an office in a small parish village named Hardwick, in Cambridgeshire. Pipex quickly expanded as Internet usage soared in the mid-late 1990s, and it was floated on the London Stock Exchange in 1994 as Unipalm-Pipex. The company was sold soon after its floatation: In 1995, to UUNet, for a price believed to be in the region of £150 million; at the time Pipex was one of the UK's leading ISPs. As previously stated, Pipex was one of the first UK ISPs to operate a transatlantic leased line, and this line was connected to UUNET. UUNET were one of the Worlds largest Internet Service Providers in the 1990s and regarded as a Tier 1 Network, and therefore, it made sense for UUNET to buy Pipex.
The 1990s proved a chaotic period of time for the Internet, with rapid expansion, mergers and acquisitions. Many acquisitions proved disastrous, such as Lycos, who were purchased by Telefónica for $12.5 billion, who eventually sold Lycos for a price believed to be 2-3% of its purchase price. Pipex went through a range of mergers and acquisitions -- eventually a brand rename -- thoroughout the 1990s and 2000s, and fared better as an investment than Lycos: the business was sold for £210 million in 2007 to Tiscali UK. On the 30th of June 2009, Tiscali sold its UK business to Carphone Warehouse, who later renamed themselves to TalkTalk in 2010. TalkTalk are now one of the UK's largest Internet Service Providers, and contain Pipex's residential business/customer base.