Winter 1994, Volume 2, Number 1

Citizen access to the Information Highway is the goal of WNC effort

Citizen access to the Information Highway is the goal of the Mountain Area Information Network (MAIN), an organizing effort for Western North Carolina initiated by Citizens for Media Literacy.MAIN's goal is to link public libraries, schools, local governments and other service agencies in a region-wide computer network that would create and maintain the local-access blue highways and backroadsof the global Information Highway, said CML executive director Wally Bowen.

The Information Highway could go the way of the amusement park/shopping mall model of cable and broadcast TV, or it could include ample public spaces such as on-line libraries, town halls and public forums where citizens can interact as citizens, and not simply as consumers, said Bowen, who was recently elected president of the MAIN Board of Directors.MAINs goal is to ensure that the rich information sources of Western North Carolina are accessible to local residents and to global users of the Internet, he said. MAIN would initially include narrowband text and data access only, thereby avoiding the much higher costs of fiber optic-based broadband interactive video. Civic networking is affordable and accessible to those who live in larger, urban areas with large concentrations of information infrastructure, said Bowen.

With MAIN, we want to ensure that rural areas such as the mountains of Western North Carolina are not by-passed.MAIN is seeking support from public agencies such as universities and the N.C. Extension Service and from private entities such as telecommunications companies who will profit from widespread use of networking technology. MAIN is affiliated with the National Public Telecomputing Network (NPTN), which supports civic networking across the nation. Based in Cleveland, Ohio, NPTN grew out of the nations first community network, the Cleveland Free-Net. NPTN supports civic networks in all 50 states.

The MAIN Board of Directors includes Wally Bowen, Citizens for Media Literacy; Eric Caldwell, N.C. Cooperative Extension Service; Glenn Davis, Asheville-Buncombe Community College; Jill Gehrig, Asheville-Buncombe Community College; Charles Glazener, Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce; Richard Heim, National Climatic Data Center; Chris Johansen, Handmade America; Paul Lundquist, Yancey County artist and blacksmith; Louis Miles, Buncombe County Management Information Systems; Kern Parker, UNC-Asheville; Gail Pemble, Southwestern Community College; Ed Sheary, Asheville-Buncombe Library; Bob Shepherd, Land-of-Sky Regional Council; Ann Wilder, Mediation Center; Aaron Zaretsky, Grove Arcade Public Market Foundation.

For information on the Mountain Area Information Network, call 704-255-0182 or send an e-mail message to

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