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Thanks to all for your concern and ideas about the Tallahassee Free-Net.
Michael Rouse ([log in to unmask]), the library's TFN guy, is preparing
a white paper on financial options to support the net.  Options to be
discussed are:  (1) keeping the net free through donations, line sponsors,
some ads, and focused fund raising; (2) stratify the net into an enhanced
for pay service where access would be faster than our current 85 lines/user
(e.g., say to 20 lines/user) and use the proceeds from the enhanced service
to underwrite a free service; (3) full privitization where the assets of the
TFN would be sold to an ISP who would then share some of the profits (the
big issue here is how much?) to provide, hopefully, some free service or, if
not, monies to pay for free access points in the community; and (4) close
TFN doors.
 
The last is not very likely, since the funds currently raised would support
some service, but unless we can generate a lot more money--our estimate is
appx. $150K/year (and this is low, if we want to provide a better service)--
this would be a very low level of service.
 
I am not sanguine about our ability to raise this amount of money on a
yearly basis.  Ads and line sponsors would, I think, have to pick up the slack.
 
This mess is being driven by fiscal stresses that are affecting FSU, the
state, the city, and the county.  Money is tight all over, and next year
promises to be worse in FL.
 
Any suggestions will be greatly welcomed, as we are working on a tentative
date of Oct 1 to resolve this issue.
 
 
>>Let me share with you, and others, the plight of the Tallahassee (FL)
>>Free-Net.
>>
>>First, I think we share your view that urban areas have to
>>cross-subsidize rural areas if they are to ever get access.  We have
>>counties surrounding Tallahassee that could never afford the costs
>>associated with setting up their own server and connection (even
>>56Kbs).  We drafted an NTIA grant that reflected this unfortunate
>>reality.  It was, however, based on the conversion of the local Free-Net
>>to a Fee-Net, which, in the best case (read: cash-flow) analysis, would
>>have fee paying users underwriting free users.
>>
>>Our grant plan was to hook into POPs in each rural county to provide them
>>with local cost service.
>>
>>But now, things are worse.  The TFN has grown a lot, local sponsors are
>>less willing to pay for the costs, such that we are faced with a
>>privitized bail out, a miraculous fund raising effort, or mana from
>>heaven.  Local government has decided that this is a private matter.
>>
>>If these problems cannot be resolved, the TFN is in danger of ceasing to
>>exist.
>
>If you completely privatize, your users are likely to become disgruntled as
>a consumer online service was not what they signed on for.  However, it
>would be worse just to cease to exist.  Failing a change of heart with
>regard to your sponsors or divine intervention, I suggest the following for
>your consideration:
>
>1.  Prepare a business plan that divides the processes of TFN into defined
>groups.
>
>2.  Determine which groups of processes are the core of what makes up the
>community network.  (locally based, user developed content; public forum
>training for new users; communications forums (e.g., SIGs))
>
>3.  Determine which groups of processes can be privatized.  (enhanced data
>services such as dial-up access; certain types of content (e.g., content
>not from nonprofit orgs or govt orgs))
>
>4.  Find a commercial organization willing to acquire the assets and
>services making up number 3 and use a royalty payment contract or some
>other revenue stream mechanism by which the commercial organization can pay
>TFN on an ongoing basis.  Such revenue will enable TFN to continue, albeit
>in a new form.
>
>5.  Or, instead of 4, have TFN create a wholly-owned for profit subsidiary
>which handles all of the processes in number 3.  Taxes are paid on the
>revenue this unit earns, with the remainder going to TFN, the nonprofit
>parent.
>
>In the 1980s, when there were no consumer online services, Free-Net systems
>had a large definition in terms of what services they offerred.  With the
>advent of competition in the consumer online services industry, it is time
>for Free-Net systems and other forms of community networks to redefine
>themselves by narrowing what activities they pursue.  Such focus should
>include user literacy, local content development, and operation of an
>electronic community that has relevance to the lives of citizens and
>institutions within a geographically identified region.
>
>Peter
>
>
>
>---
>Peter F. Harter, Executive Director & General Counsel
>Home Page: "http://www.nptn.org:80/about.nptn/whois/pfh/"
>The National Public Telecomputing Network (NPTN)  "http://www.nptn.org/"
>E-mail: [log in to unmask]  Voice: 216/498-4050  Fax: 216/498-4051
>Offices: 30680 Bainbridge Road, Solon, Ohio  44139-2268  U.S.A.
>
>** DISCLAIMER: These opinions are not to be construed as legal advice.
>Please consult a local attorney to gain legal advice.  These comments are
>general in nature and address a public policy issue and not the particular
>interests of any single or identifiable person.  No attorney client
>relationship is established by this communication.**
>
>
Brent Wall
Leon County
Courthouse
Tallahassee, FL 32301
 
Ph:  904.488.9962   Fax:  904.488.1670  E-mail:  [log in to unmask]