Winter-Spring 2004

Dispatches from the AFCN

AFCN logo

Rapid advances in technological development, Internet working applications, and information flow are having increasing impacts upon communities, organizations and individuals, with many associated concerns, challenges, opportunities and benefits. The AFCN advocates strategies, provides resources, and offers services to help communities function more effectively and remain healthy amid the complexities of this Information Revolution. The AFCN provides resources, shared learning, and experienced guidance to help communities and organizations use information and communications technologies effectively.

6th Annual National Community Networking Conference—December 7-9, 2003, Austin, Texas

"This year's National Community Networking Conference was one of the best conferences I've been to in a long time. There was not only tremendous energy and enthusiasm from participants, but a flood of new, dramatically cheaper broadband hardware and robust, rich open source software, together changing the entire landscape for community investments in technology." —Andrew Cohill

The 2003 conference, "Community Technology Networking—Survival and Success," as it had been promoted, turned out to be a "how to" summit meeting, with leaders from government and industry joining community networking experts to help local leaders develop and sustain successful community technology initiatives. Interactive sessions, grant and funding workshops, hands-on technology demonstrations, and pragmatic advice from experienced practitioners and professionals highlighted this year's program.

Hosted by the TeleCommunity Resource Center, the University of Texas-Austin, the Texas ISP Association, CTCNet, AFCN, and other sponsors, this annual conference offered presentations and discussions on rapidly changing technologies, policies, and services, and practical success strategies for community organizations, institutions and ISPs, those just getting started as well as veterans of the Information Revolution.

The AFCN Board, including some past, outgoing and newly elected members, met for an all-day strategic planning retreat on the first day of the conference. Julie Fesenmaier and Ben Mueller, from the University of Illinois, serving as facilitators/reporters, expertly guided the group's conversations, questions, decisions, and actions toward a clear and realizable agenda for 2004.

Plenary session at Community Networking conference
Plenary session with the AFCN Board at the Community Networking conference in December: Steve Snow, Ann Bishop, Michael Maranda, Frank Odasz, and Amy Borgstrom.
A big Texas thanks to Gene Crick, Michael Brown, Patti Clifford, and all the other staff, volunteers, and participants who made for a most energizing and successful program, in a year of greater uncertainties and diminished resources.

AFCN Thanks to CTCNet

A big "Thank you, too," from the AFCN Board and its members to the CTCNet Board and all members for once again inviting the AFCN to be a partner in the annual (June) CTCNet conference. Washington, DC provided the setting for a superb gathering of knowledge and experience, shared purposes and friendships, and was a most valuable venue for Community Networking outreach. We look forward to growing together.

AFCN Announces 2004 Community Network Open Source Package Awards

A key service of most community networks (CNs) is providing Internet-based services to community, civic, and nonprofit groups. Community networks need an easy to install and easy to manage suite of information services that has an integrated and easy to use Web interface, so that volunteers and staff who are not Unix experts can set up, configure, and support service packages for local civic and community groups.

At the 6th National Community Networking Conference in December, AFCN announced its annual awards for the organization's Open Source Packages initiative. With the support and partnership of the U.S. Department of Commerce NTIA program and the University of Baltimore School of Information Arts and Technology, the AFCN is offering two $4,000 cash awards for open source software-based packages that best meet the AFCN's award specifications. The two awards are designed to meet the needs of most community networks.

Award One—Basic Services: This award is designed to meet the needs of modestly funded community network startup projects and/or CN projects that have limited technical support and assistance.

Award Two—Integrated System Services: This award is designed for community networks with the funding and/or technical and support staff to provide more sophisticated services with a higher level of integration.

In addition, funds have been allocated for the development of a resource guide to help AFCN members identify and better understand appropriate Open Source tools.

In announcing the awards, AFCN President Gene Crick said, "This is the best way we know to help communities get affordable, easily-managed technology. The packages will be especially helpful to smaller rural communities and urban neighborhoods." More information is available on the Open Source Awards web site.

CTCs, CMs and CNs: Convergence Opportunities

It seems obvious. There are natural relationships, challenges and opportunities for convergence among Community Technology Centers, Community Media (TV & Radio), and Community Networks, convergence both technical and social. At their evolutionary edges, these public-benefit groups overlap, with complementary missions and goals, and with a bottom-up focus on serving their communities of real people and places.

The technological tendency of all systems becoming digital, increasingly photonic, networked, interoperable and "open" means that community media programming will no longer be relegated to just one public access TV channel; that technology "training" cannot be provided solely in desktop computer labs; and that "public access" and "digital divides" have a changing and ongoing significance.

New or renewed broadband cable franchise agreements can create the opportunity to strengthen local public access television (media); can provide institutional fiber infrastructure and internetworked connections for many community sites as well as for wireless distribution nodes; can help to support training programs, along with local content and applications creation; and may help to support the development of convergent "community tele-media centers" such as some of you are already involved in.

The convergence of services and partnering of community media groups allows for sharing the costs of facilities, technologies, and personnel; leveraging strength through representation in the community; and more effectively evolving to continue along a sustainable path.

The natural path that seems to lie ahead for our local tele-media organizations also holds true for our national (and international) representative organizations. It's already happening. CTCNet is being very pro-active in this regard. AFCN also looks forward to strategically establishing and strengthening its working relationships with a number of public media and community development organizations this year, and together providing greater service to our members and to a world in need of smarter, more caring, and creative example-setting. Please tell us stories of "convergence" in your community, on the AFCN or CTCNet lists.

AFCN Logo Design Contest

AFCN is once again considering its visual and graphic identity. Dot-coms pay big money to graphics boutiques for new logos and effective visual presence. The AFCN is not quite in that league. But we are prepared to offer a prize of up to $500 to the winner of our Logo Design Contest.

Call for submissions: You graphic designers know the drill: Simple is better. It must be reproducible and scalable, at various sizes (from business card to conference posters), on both paper and the web. It should somehow represent AFCN's values, qualities, and purposes. The design should incorporate AFCN's name or initials. It may be an abstraction, or a symbol, or an iconÉ Creativity always counts.

Deadline for receiving submissions is April 1: Submissions should be sent electronically to AFCN's Board and new Advisory Council will reach a decision and select the winner in May. We plan to unveil the new logo/ graphic design and announce the competition winner at the Seattle CTCNet Conference in June. Should none of the submissions be selected, the competition may be re-announced.

AFCN 2004 Membership Specials

The Board recently (continuously) discussed the changing role of AFCN. It is the Board's belief that the Internet has changed the role of the traditional professional membership organization and that dues should be adjusted accordingly. In the past, professional associations WERE the network. Annual conferences and printed conference proceedings represented important if not critical sources of contacts, best practices, new research, and information. Today the Internet has enabled practitioners and professionals to form their own networks and to access a wealth of information.

The board believes that with the dramatic growth of communities embarking on community networking and technology efforts, AFCN continues to have an essential role in connecting people, best practices, and information. Dues should reflect the reduced cost of providing those services. Subsequently, the board voted unanimously to a new dues structure.

AFCN offered special 2004 membership prices at the Austin national CN conference in December. Now these special reduced memberships are available to all interested in joining and participating in this leading nonprofit community networking organization.

* Individual AFCN membership: $25 For only $25 a year you can join or renew as an active AFCN member. With expanded member information, benefits, and newly developed support programs, this is a bargain designed for current budget realities. Please forward this member offer anywhere appropriate, urging your friends and associates to join AFCN. Today we need each other more than ever.

* Community Network Showcase Membership: $100 Community organizations joining AFCN can receive a "showcase" listing in the AFCN CN Directory, including a Web page on the AFCN site to describe the work and activities of their project. Describe your services and strengths; explain your goals and needs. This is a perfect opportunity for leading CNs to demonstrate real "best practices" while supporting AFCN and the community networking movement.

* Corporate and Professional Membership: $200 Corporate sponsors, vendor members, service providers, and professional consultants are recognized as supporters of community networking and receive a listing in the AFCN Business Directory plus a business page on the AFCN site to briefly describe the products and services they offer. Now supporting the good work of AFCN also makes good business sense.

Be part of the future of community networking. Share in the AFCN. Join.

AFCN Committees

AFCN is currently forming new project committees on Open Source, Broadband and Wireless, Web Site Development, Partnerships and Support, Policies, and Global Outreach. Contact if you are interested in working on any of these committees.

Community Networking Spotlight on New Members and Resources

Eric Howland of DANEnet (Wisconsin)—DANEnet was founded in 1994. AFCN is delighted to have Eric, his wisdom and experience.

Afi Osakwe of Blue Springs-Hoke County CDC (North Carolina). Blue Springs CDC has a terrific Web site that is filled with useful information, and it's clear they are making a difference in their area.

eBigBend, Big Bend, TX, Keith Williams, Project Coordinator. eBigBend was originally conceived as strictly a technology based organization with three primary focal points: providing public access to computer and Internet technology for rural community residents, providing a web portal for local businesses and organizations, and promoting computer literacy for people of all ages— economic development through the advancement of technology awareness. While looking at sustainability options, we decided to add one more major focus: to become an Adult Education Center available to local residents and to the entire world by way of Blackboard distance learning systems.

PetalumaNet—Bill Hammerman, Cyber-activist. Serving the Petaluma area for over eight years, PetalumaNet's most recent CTC start up is the Teen Center, next door to the Regional Library, which now contains the computer lab shared by both the Petaluma School District's Adult Education computer courses and the City Recreation Department's computer programs for teens. PetalumaNet was instrumental in obtaining both a $25,000 grant and 20 donated computers to help launch the project, which is now self-sustaining. Partnered involvements include the North Bay CyberCity Roundtable and Sonoma State University's Cyber Institute.

Community Inquiry Lab—University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, IL. The Community Inquiry Labs (CIL) support engagement in learning, research and action with people from all walks of life. A CIL is a place where community members come together to develop shared capacity and work on common problems. A CIL is most importantly a concept, although open source, free, web-based community-ware is being developed to support the site. With CIL Builder software, anyone can create a CIL by completing a simple web form and selecting those individual software bricks that suit their needs (a document center, calendar, webboard, syllabus tool, library catalog, lab notebook). CILs have been created by a number of groups, including SisterNet, the Puerto Rican Cultural Center Street Academy, Eastern Illinois University Fair Trade Coalition, the Illinois Citizen-based Water Quality Monitoring project, and the Teaching Public Policy Research Group.

Lone Eagles Consulting—Frank Odasz is a one-man, rural "information society" development guru. His Lone Eagles web site is a treasure trove of practical, on-the-ground information resources and learners' guides. Currently learning and demonstrating some new "open source" tools, Frank frequently updates and adds to the site. Highly recommended. Take the time to read Frank's new report, "The Four Levels of Community Networking," where you'll also find his "Best Resources Collected from the National Community Networking Conference" and other resources posted while on the road or from his "eagle's nest" in Montana.

AFCN Broadband and Wireless Resources—A dedicated site with links to resources of particular relevance to localities. Watch and help this site grow and improve in 2004.

2004 AFCN Board and Officers

Gene Crick, AFCN President, Executive Director, TeleCommunity Resource Center; Metropolitan Austin Interactive Network; and Texas Internet Service Providers Association, Austin, TX

Michael Maranda, Vice President, Acting Executive Director, Korean American Community Services, Chicago, IL

Judith Pepper, Treasurer, Former Executive Director, La Plaza Telecommunity, Taos, NM; Consultant with Regional Development Corporation, Santa Fe, NM

Richard Lowenberg, AFCN Secretary; Executive Director, Davis Community Network, Davis, CA; Director, RADLab

Ann Bishop, Ph.D. Graduate School of Library and Information Sciences, University of IL, Urbana Champaign; PrairieNet Board of Directors

Karen L. Michaelson, Ph.D., Director, TINCAN (The Inland Northwest Community Access Network), Spokane, WA

Frank Odasz, M.A., President and CEO, Lone Eagle Consulting, Dillon, MT

Sally Rawlins, Principal, Rawlins & Associates; Development Director, Terrell County TeleCommunity, Sanderson, TX

Richard Lowenberg is AFCN Secretary and Executive Director of the Davis Community Network in Davis, CA.


Please update this site so that the Logo submissions are directed to me at The email address given is incorrect. I'm not at SBC.COM


Posted by: Michael Maranda at February 18, 2004 02:13 PM

Many thanks to Richard for citing Blue Springs-Hoke County CDC and my work with them in "Dispatches from the AFCN" located herein (

Please note that my name is "Afi" and not "Afri" and that the correct link to the CDC is

the second "s" in "bluesprings" was omitted.

And thanks to the rest of the board for the outstanding work that you do. Hopefully, we can begin to participate at the level we anticipated--once critical funding issues are resolved.

Thank you very much.


Posted by: Afi G. Osakwe at October 11, 2004 04:58 PM
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