MAIN awarded $10,000 grant for civic mapping website

September 25, 2012 by Wally Bowen

ASHEVILLE – The nonprofit Mountain Area Information Network (MAIN) has been awarded a $10,000 Rural Digital Advocacy grant to build an online mapping and data visualization website for nonprofit organizations in Western North Carolina.

Awarded by the Rural Policy Action Partnership, the grant was one of six national awards to organizations to demonstrate the use of digital tools for rural advocacy and policy change. The partnership includes the Institute for Emerging Issues at NC State, the Center for Rural Strategies, and Network Impact, with funding provided by the Kellogg Foundation.

The project, entitled “Mapping Our Issues: Data Visualization Made Easy for Rural Activists,” has two phases. In phase one, MAIN will build a web-based mapping and data-visualization tool to enable WNC residents to document the availability, cost and performance of broadband Internet access in their locale. The tool will allow residents to compare their broadband experience with availability data provided by incumbent telephone and cable companies to the Federal Communications Commission.

In a report published Aug. 21, the FCC estimates that more than 48,000 residents of 16 mountain counties live beyond the reach of broadband lines from a cable or telephone provider. The number of WNC residents without broadband is even higher when cost and affordability are factored, the report said.

Phase two of the project will provide training for rural activists in how to use digital mapping and data-visualization to deepen public understanding of their issues. This training will initially focus on staff and volunteers from four local nonprofit partners: Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project, Canary Coalition, Disability Partners, and the Western Region Education Services Alliance.

“Digital mapping and data visualization have long been used by Fortune 500 companies and government agencies to promote their issues and policy solutions,” said Wally Bowen, the project director and founder of MAIN. “With advances in open-source software, it’s now possible for grassroots organizations to harness the power of digital mapping and data visualization,” he said.

Digital mapping, often called GIS for “geographic information systems,” has been around for more than 25 years. GIS can map everything from the spread of communicable disease or environmental pollution to the geographic distribution of tax breaks and campaign donations. Open source GIS is free software developed and refined over time by programmers from all over the world.

“Sets of data can be dry and intimidating,” said Bowen. “Data visualization brings out the story hidden in data, and GIS can relate that story to a specific place on the map.”

“There are tons and tons of public data available on any issue you can name,” said Neil Thomas, an Asheville-based GIS consultant. “GIS and data visualization allow you to analyze and present this data in ways that inform citizens and advances the public discussion around critical policy issues,” he said. Thomas’ firm, Resource Data Inc., is a consulting partner for the “Mapping Our Issues” project.

The project’s technical director, Richard Civille, calls open source GIS “the most important innovation in nonprofit technology since the advent of social media” to boost public understanding of critical issues and to empower public participation. “Like social media, these tools can be used for crowd-sourcing to create and present local data about local issues,” he said.

Civille noted, however, that grassroots organizations still face a “learning curve” in using GIS and data visualization. “It’s important to find local technical volunteers and partners who can help, and nonprofit leaders need to understand these new opportunities and challenges, and embrace them,” he said. Civille is a co-founder of Navigating Our Future, a nonprofit developer of civic IT infrastructure based in the San Juan Islands of Puget Sound, WA.

Bowen called the “Mapping Our Issues” project “an important step in MAIN’s mission of supporting local journalism and citizen voices” through the local ownership of media and IT infrastructure.

The project builds on Civic Navigator, a prototype GIS website launched earlier this year by MAIN, Navigating Our Future, and two other community media organizations, Access Humboldt in California and Chittenden County TV in Vermont. That effort recently took second place in the Knight Foundation’s Civic Data Challenge.

The “Mapping Our Issues” website is expected to launch by mid-October. MAIN’s Civic Navigator website is available at: http://www.main.nc.us/civic/

For more information, contact Wally Bowen at 828.255.0182 or e-mail: mapping@main.nc.us. For information on becoming a technical volunteer for “Mapping Our Issues,” please visit: http://www.main.nc.us/mapvol END

Amy Goodman in Asheville — Friday, Sept. 7

August 31, 2012 by Wally Bowen

[Please note that advance ticket sales at Malaprops and online will end at noon Friday, Sept. 7. Tickets will be available at the door.]

Print Printable Flyer

Amy Goodman - The Silenced Majority

Award-winning journalist Amy Goodman will speak in Asheville on Friday, Sept. 7 to benefit the nonprofit Mountain Area Information Network (MAIN).

The 7 p.m talk will be held in Ferguson Auditorium on the campus of Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College. Admission is $10 for adults and $5 for students. Advance tickets available online and at Malaprops Bookstore. Proceeds go to MAIN’s “Take Back the Media!” capital campaign.

Following the talk, Goodman will be signing her just-released book, “The Silenced Majority,” with co-author Denis Moynihan. The book examines the power of ordinary people to change the media based on accounts documented during populist uprisings from Fukushima to Tahrir Square and Occupy Wall Street.

Goodman is the host and co-founder of Democracy Now!, the daily news show broadcast on more than 1,000 radio and TV stations around the world. The program is heard locally each weekday at 8 a.m. on MAIN-FM 103.5, the low-power community radio station operated by Mountain Area Information Network. MAIN-FM also re-broadcasts Democracy Now! at 6 p.m. The video edition of Democracy Now! airs weekdays at 10 a.m. on the Blue Ridge Community College education access TV channel, BRCC-TV, in Henderson County.

Goodman’s talk in Asheville will be her first following Democracy Now!’s coverage of the 2012 Democratic and Republican national conventions. In 2008, Goodman and two Democracy Now! producers were among a number of journalists arrested during the opening day of the GOP convention in St. Paul, MN.

Goodman and Democracy Now! filed a civil lawsuit against the local police and the US Secret Service. The suit was settled last October for $100,000 plus an agreement by the police departments to train their personnel in the First Amendment’s protections of journalists and a free press.

“We are thrilled to host Amy Goodman the day after the Democratic Convention concludes in Charlotte,” said Wally Bowen, founder and executive director of MAIN. “With the unprecedented flood of corporate money into our politics, truly independent journalists like Amy Goodman are more important than ever before.”

The nonprofit Democracy Now! does not accept advertising or corporate underwriting, making it one of the only independent national news programs in the United States. Its awards include Best Investigating Reporting from the Society of Professional Journalists, the George Polk Award for Broadcast Reporting, and the Alfred I. DuPont-Columbia Award for Excellence in Broadcasting.

MAIN-FM is the only radio station in the Asheville area that broadcasts Democracy Now! live each weekday morning. Bowen said Amy Goodman’s talk coincides with a major power increase for MAIN-FM, which had been forced to broadcast at reduced power since going on the air in 2003. The FCC recently relaxed the rules over opposition from commercial broadcasters. The date for MAIN-FM’s power increase is pending FCC approval.

Founded in 1995, the Mountain Area Information Network is a nonprofit Internet service provider which hosts websites for citizens, small businesses, and nonprofits throughout western North Carolina. MAIN also offers high-speed Internet access in parts of Buncombe, Madison, Mitchell and Yancey counties. MAIN is pioneering a new business model for journalism by enabling local residents to spend their Internet dollars to support independent news and public affairs programming.

For more information, visit: http://www.main.nc.us or call 828.255.0182. END

MAIN offers mapping tool for activists

July 29, 2012 by Wally Bowen

The nonprofit Mountain Area Information Network (MAIN) has launched a mapping tool prototype for citizens and grassroots groups in Western North Carolina.

For years, big corporations and government agencies have enjoyed the power of GIS and data visualization to shape public policies and public opinion. Until now, the cost and technical complexity of these tools have kept them out of the reach of average citizens.

MAIN is partnering with community media groups in California, Vermont, Washington, and South Carolina to develop this suite of GIS and data visualization tools. In the months ahead, we will be expanding this prototype by adding more WNC counties, new layers of data, and new applications.

MAIN is also seeking funding to provide tutorials in the use of GIS/DV for staff and volunteers with WNC grassroots organizations.

Please visit the link above for a preview of MAIN’s “Mapping Western North Carolina” website. And while you are there, please fill out the brief “Civic Engagement” survey. It’s quick, anonymous, and it could help MAIN and its partners compete for the Knight Foundation’s “Civic Data Challenge.”

Feedback is welcome at: webmaster@main.nc.us

A year-end message from MAIN

December 22, 2011 by Wally Bowen

Dear Friends:

Since its launch in 1996, MAIN has played an increasingly important role in federal and state policies on community media and Internet access.

Here’s a quick look back at 2011:

* Last February, our public-interest allies in DC needed MAIN’s help in challenging a Verizon lawsuit to eliminate the FCC’s proposed open Internet rules. As the only “last-mile” ISP in the national media reform movement, MAIN was critical in achieving “standing” in the suit. On April 4, a US Appeals Court dismissed Verizon’s lawsuit.

* In March, MAIN made a landmark filing with the Federal Communications Commission calling for federal policies to protect communities’ rights to “self-provision” broadband infrastructure.

* In May, the rights of municipalities to “self-provision” broadband came under attack by the right-wing N.C. General Assembly. MAIN played a lead role in opposing this cable/telecom-driven legislation. Though the bill passed, we succeeded in blowing the whistle – and raising public awareness – on the cable/telecom lobby’s push for total control over broadband access in NC.

* Since July, we helped block repeated attempts by conservatives in Congress to auction our public airwaves to the highest bidder. These backroom deals – under the guise of “deficit reduction” – would eliminate the TV “white spaces,” the vacant TV channels we fought so hard to liberate from corporate control in 2008. This high-performance spectrum continues to be our greatest hope for solving the rural broadband crisis! We’re hopeful the FCC will give final approval for TVWS technologies in 2012.

Meanwhile, the cable and telephone companies are relentless in their efforts to prevent communities from launching broadband Internet networks. What if Wall Street had succeeded in prohibiting rural electric and telephone cooperatives 60 years ago?

Rural America won the battle to “self-provision” electricity and telephone service. With your help, we can win the battle to self-provision broadband Internet access!

Western North Carolina is unique in having a “last-mile” broadband network like MAIN to demonstrate how rural communities can escape broadband dependency on Wall Street and the cable/telco duopoly.

We need your help now more than ever. Our founder and executive director, Wally Bowen, has been diagnosed with ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease. In 2012, we will begin a national search for Wally’s successor. Meanwhile, Wally will continue his invaluable policy work.

Your year-end, tax-deductible donation will help keep MAIN’s unique and historic work going strong in this pivotal year of 2012. You can donate via our secure online link, or mail your tax-deductible donation to: MAIN, 34 Wall Street, Suite 407, Asheville, N.C. 28801.

From all of us at MAIN, best wishes for a joyous holiday season and a happy new year!

The MAIN Board of Directors, Staff and Volunteers

Free Speech TV interview with Wally Bowen at NetRoots Nation

June 24, 2011 by cd

Free Speech TV interview with Wally Bowen at NetRoots Nation

Impulse Audio Tonight! 5-12-11

May 12, 2011 by onair

Check out Impulse Audio TONIGHT  7-10PM  with host Jessica Hatter and co host  Keith Chop Chop Fisher! No mainstream just music!

Impulse Audio Tonight! 5-12-11

May 5, 2011 by onair

Check out Impulse Audio TONIGHT  7-10PM  with host Jessica Hatter and co host  Keith Chop Chop Fisher! No mainstream just music!