MAIN 2.0 strategic plan
presented in Asheville
“MAIN 2.0: Next Generation Community Network” was presented Feb. 23 by Wally Bowen at Pack Library’s Lord
Auditorium in downtown Asheville. The talk was re-scheduled from
Feb. 4, when the library closed due to inclement weather.
Bowen is executive director of the nonprofit Mountain Area
Information Network (MAIN) and radio station WPVM-LP, 103.5 FM, and
is a former member of the N.C. Rural Internet Access Authority.
“Digital convergence, federal spectrum policy, and advances in
online social networking have now made possible the next phase in
our nonprofit business model for journalism and community
networking,” said Bowen, who founded MAIN in 1995.
Bowen called this “next generation” community network “a powerful
new online organizing and advocacy platform” for local nonprofits
and civic groups, plus an “advanced networking platform” for
locally-owned businesses and ‘green’ enterprises.
At the heart of this “next gen” community network, he said, will be
MAIN’s nonprofit Internet service provider (ISP) operation with
mobile broadband capability and sustainable business model.
“Last November, MAIN joined with ‘Internet Freedom’ groups and
high-tech companies to win a 5-0 vote at the FCC to free up vacant
TV channels — our public airwaves — for unlicensed use by mobile
devices,” he said. The spectrum in these vacant channels — called
the “white spaces” — has a range and efficiency capable of
delivering high-definition video, Bowen said.
“This historic vote will allow MAIN to offer mobile broadband
service, as well as fixed broadband to homes and businesses, and
restore our financial sustainability, ” Bowen said.
He predicted that MAIN’s new mobile broadband capability – which
advocates have dubbed “Wi-Fi on steroids” — will generate
sufficient revenue to sustain robust community journalism and social
networking platforms to support the work of local nonprofits and
The MAIN board of directors unanimously approved the MAIN 2.0
strategic vision on Jan. 6. Planning and implementation will be
directed by seven working groups comprised of area volunteers.
Ongoing community input and guidance will be provided by a Community
Network Advisory Council with representatives from key nonprofit and
Bowen said that MAIN will continue deploying its Wi-Fi City
mesh-wireless network throughout Asheville, while planning the
rollout of a new “white spaces” network for mobile broadband.
Industry watchers predict that the new technology could be available
as early as 2010.
MAIN was recently awarded a $100,000 grant from the Z. Smith
Reynolds Foundation and a $22,000 grant from the Media and Democracy
Fund to continue its broadband advocacy and to develop community
journalism via the MAIN 2.0 strategic vision.
This vision can be previewed at:
MAIN’s media reform work included a prolonged effort in the 1990s to
create public, education, and government access TV channels in
Asheville and Buncombe County. MAIN launched its own low-power FM
radio station in 2003. For more information, visit:
http://www.main.nc.us, or call 255-0182. END