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9-10-97                         CONTACT:  Wally Bowen, 704-255-0182

WNC community network moves
to protect citizens' Internet privacy

        To help protect the privacy of its Internet users, the Mountain
Area Information Network (MAIN) Board of Directors voted Tuesday (Sept. 9)
to prohibit the sale or exchange of the community network's mailing lists.
        The resolution, which passed unanimously, states:  "As a nonprofit
community network, MAIN respects the privacy of its users and strives to
protect that privacy.  The MAIN Board of Directors, therefore, resolves
that mailing lists of MAIN users will not be sold, shared or exchanged."
        The board action was taken in response to a growing trend among
national online services to sell mailing lists and other user information
to advertisers and direct-mail marketing firms.
        "Our board is being proactive in protecting the privacy rights of
MAIN users," said MAIN executive director Wally Bowen.  "The business
models that national online services are presenting to Wall Street
investors clearly indicate their intent to provide personal information
about subscribers to advertisers and business partners."
        In addition to phone numbers and mailing addresses, the online
services will also provide advertisers with tracking data on where users
go on the Internet and what they purchase.  That information will be used
to customize advertising for individual users, Bowen said.
        MAIN is a non-profit, commercial-free network governed by a board
of directors of local citizens.  It is funded by a blend of user fees,
grants, contracts and donations.
        "MAIN is similar to a rural telephone cooperative," said Bowen.
"Because our network operates in the public interest and is governed by a
board of local citizens, we have the opportunity and the obligation to
protect the rights of individual users."
        With an average growth rate of 150 new users per month, MAIN
currently provides low-cost Internet access to more than 1,600 subscribers
in 12 counties in Western North Carolina.  MAIN also provides free
web-page hosting for local governments and non-profit organizations.
        The community network also maintains 30 public access terminals in
libraries and community centers for citizens who do not own a computer.
In recent months, MAIN has begun recycling donated computers and placing
them in the homes of low-income, disabled citizens via a partnership with
Pathways for Independent Living, a non-profit agency in Sylva, N.C.
        MAIN began offering community network services in the spring of 1996 via
a grant from the National Telecommunications and Information
Administration (NTIA), an agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce.
        For more information, call the MAIN office at 704-255-0182, or
visit MAIN's website at <www.main.nc.us>.
                                        END