Mountain Area Information Network

TIIAP grant press release

October 16, 1995

The following press release was distributed to WNC media, Tuesday, Oct. 17. The release was approved by the executive committee of the MAIN Board of Directors. -- Wally

CONTACT: Wally Bowen

$800,000 Federal Grant Goes to WNC Network

The Mountain Area Information Network (MAIN) and Land-of-Sky Regional Council have been awarded an $800,000 matching grant from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), an agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce.

The grant will fund a two-year demonstration project to create a grass-roots, public-access computer network linking communities across Western North Carolina. Land-of-Sky will serve as the project's fiscal agent. The grant is part of NTIA's Telecommunications Information Infrastructure Assistance Program (TIIAP).

The network will enable citizens of Western North Carolina to access local information resources such as libraries, the N.C. Cooperative Extension Service, government databases, social services, employment and economic development information, health information, weather data, historical archives, and more.

Phase one of MAIN will include the WNC counties of Avery, Buncombe, Cherokee, Clay, Graham, Haywood, Jackson, Macon, Madison, Mayland, McDowell, Swain, Watauga, and Yancey.

MAIN's goal is to build the blue highways connecting our rural mountain counties to the global information superhighway, said Wally Bowen, executive director of Citizens for Media Literacy in Asheville. CML helped launch the MAIN organizing effort in the fall of 1993.

Bowen compared that effort to an Appalachian quilting bee, in which resources and costs are shared to create a value-added community asset that no single organization or institution could fund alone. One of our highest priorities will be using this cost-sharing approach to bring on-line those counties not included in MAIN's first phase, added Bowen.

He predicted that MAIN will become an "engine" for further grant and economic development opportunities.

Citizens will use MAIN via public-access computer terminals in libraries and community centers, or from home via local dial-up phone lines. MAIN will eventually be linked to the global Internet and World Wide Web.

The MAIN network design is based on local partnerships between participating community colleges, public libraries and community centers. The colleges will house and maintain the network hardware. Trained volunteers will assist citizens at the public-access sites.

Computer-user organizations -- especially those made up of retirees -- have been strong supporters of MAIN, and we expect them to play a key role in the network's success, Bowen said.

The project's total cost is $3,118,821, the bulk of which comes from existing telecommunications projects at WNC community colleges. Those colleges include Haywood, Mayland, McDowell, Southwestern, and Tri-County.

Other participating institutions include the N.C. Cooperative Extension Service, WNC Development Association, ASU's Belk Library and the Center for Appalachian Studies, Asheville-Buncombe Library System, Mars Hill College, Haywood County High-Tech Center, Handmade in America, Mountain College Library Network, N.C. Center for Creative Retirement, Center for Improving Mountain Living, Mountain Microenterprise Fund, and the Grove Arcade Public Market Foundation.