CONTACT: Wally Bowen, 828-255-0182
A community meeting to introduce the Mountain Area Information
Network (MAIN) in Polk County is set for 3 p.m. Thursday, March 2 at the
Polk campus of Isothermal Community College.
As a not-for-profit community network, MAIN provides a wide array
of community and economic development services, including low-cost dial-up
Internet access and free Internet access at more than 60 WNC libraries and
community centers. MAIN began offering dial-up Internet access in Polk
County last December. MAIN currently has 3,800 subscribers in 13 mountain
MAIN also provides free web-hosting for all local not-for-profit
agencies and organizations.
"MAIN is very similar to the rural electric and telephone
cooperatives of the 1920s and 30s," said Wally Bowen, executive director
of the community network. "By keeping our fees low, we're able to provide
Internet access to rural citizens who otherwise could not afford access.
And our free service at public libaries and community centers gives access
to citizens who cannot afford their own computer," he said.
One of MAINs most important roles, Bowen said, is providing free
websites to all local non-profit agencies and organizations. This local
content is the lifeblood of our community network. Thats why we work so
hard to recruit, train and match volunteers with local non-profits to
assist them in creating their own website, Bowen said.
Representatives of local non-profits as well as potential web-page
volunteers are especially encouraged to attend the March 2 meeting at
Approximately one out of 10 MAIN subscribers becomes a community
network volunteer. "We could not provide the technical support to our
subscribers -- as well as the free websites for non-profits -- without the
great work of our volunteers," said Bowen.
For example, our Help Desk is run almost entirely by volunteers.
Its inspiring to see how much they enjoy helping their neighbors or their
favorite non-profit solve problems and communicate on-line, Bowen said.
MAIN was recently cited as an example of innovative use of
telecommunications to bring communities closer together in the 11th annual
Innovation Awards competition of the National Association of Development
Organizations (NADO) in Washington, D.C.
MAIN's service in Polk County is supported by a $15,000 start-up
grant from the Polk Community Foundation for initial hardware costs.
Improved Internet access at Polk County Library and the Polk campus of
Isothermal Community College is another by-product of MAIN's presence in
Polk County. A wireless network, linked via a tower on Tryon Peak, will
enable ICC-Polk, the public library and MAIN to share the benefits and the
cost of a single, high-speed link to the Internet.
By pooling resources, all three organizations are sharing this
high-speed bandwidth, which -- individually -- none of us could afford,
Bowen said. Unlike other WNC counties, Polk County's telecommunications
services originate in South Carolina, which often results in higher costs.
MAIN is also bringing economic development efforts to Polk County
such as the Blue Ridge Web Market, which allows local small businesses to
market goods and services online. "The Blue Ridge Web Market is an
old-fashioned public market. The only difference is that it exists
entirely on the World Wide Web," Bowen said. Details on how Polk County
businesses can participate will be presented March 2.
Economic development is also be served by a public-private
partnership between MAIN and NewEra.Com, a WNC-based firm offering
commercial high-speed wireless access to the Internet. This service is
available to businesses and individuals within line-of-sight of Tryon
"MAIN has sub-contracted with NewEra for two reasons: part of
MAIN's mission is to promote economic development, and we believe this
wireless service will be valuable to local firms and agencies needing
higher-speed access than MAIN can provide. Secondly, MAIN will receive a
small percentage of the wireless revenue, which we hope will help sustain
our overall effort in Polk County," said Bowen.
For more information about wireless Internet access, call
NewEra.Com at 828-258-8562, or visit their website at www.new-era.com.
MAIN was originally funded by a two-year "demonstration" grant
from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration
(NTIA), an agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce.
Polk is the first WNC county added to MAIN's service area since
the community network began operation in early 1996. In addition to Polk,
MAIN serves the counties of Mitchell, McDowell, Yancey, Madison, Buncombe,
Haywood, Jackson, Swain, Macon, Graham, Clay, Cherokee and Qualla
Boundary. For more information about MAIN, call 828-255-0182 or visit
MAIN's website at . Registration forms for MAIN's dial-up
Internet access service are also available at the Polk County Library and
Isothermal Community College.