Welcome to the home page of the Community Networking Initiative and Prairienet Community Network.
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510 East Daniel
Champaign, Illinois 61820
217-244-1962 (voice)
217-265-8424 (fax)


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About the Prairienet Community Network / Prairienet History

Timeline compiled by Ann Bishop, Karen Fletcher, and Greg Newby

A thumbnail version of the poster announcing the grand opening of Prairienet in the summer of 1994. Select to download the larger version, a 254 KB GIF image. 1992 - Ann Bishop and Greg Newby discuss the formation of a Free-Net. They are encouraged by Leigh Estabrook, Dean of the Graduate School of Library and Information Science.

1992 - 1993 - Informal meetings held in the community to discuss and plan the implementation of a Free-Net. An information organization committee emerges, including representatives from the National Center for Supercomputing Applications and the News-Gazette.

Summer 1993 - Greg Newby gets demonstration Prairienet system running, develops initial menu system. Vice Chancellor Dick Wilson works to solicit financial committments from university and community organizations to purchase start-up hardware to maintain the Free-Net. Donations are received from N C S A, Illinois Cooperative Extension, Parkland Community College, Continuing Education, and the News-Gazette.

Fall 1993 - Prairienet Free-Net comes online for the first time on firefly, a Sparc 10. The modems and Internet connection are donated by the U of I Computing and Communications Services Office. Prairienet begins as an all-volunteer organization with a Board of Directors and working committees. Committee heads and important volunteers include Linda Bauer, Tom Cornelius, Chuck Isdale, Stuart Laird, and Melissa Records. Jay Greenberg, a part-time Graduate Assistant, is hired to work with the Prairienet Board, committees, and new Information Providers and respond to the many inquiries.

November 11, 1993 - Online registration program activated. Illinois residents receive a free username and are encouraged to send a donation with their paperwork for username activation.

Winter 1993 - 1994 - The first Prairienet homepage is available on the World Wide Web. Also, the first Information Providers join Prairienet. These include the News-Gazette, City of Urbana, NOW, Champaign Public Library, among others.

Spring 1994 - Education Committee, comprised of Mitch Duszynski, Brad Cronk and Graham Houser, develops and delivers the first free training classes.

July 17, 1994 - Grand Opening celebration and picnic. Seventy Information Providers are now online.

Fall 1994 - Duke Sexton hired as G A to work with I Ps and manage the volunteer office staff. Carlos Ramirez hired as systems programmer. Firefly moved from C C S O machine room to G S L I S networking room. Donated modems set up at G S L I S with 32 lines at 1200 and 2400 baud.

Winter 1994 - 1995 - Karen Fletcher joins as the first half-time employee, Information Provider Coordinator

Spring 1995 - On-line fundraiser raises $30,000

A picture of the cover of Bruce Pea's book, The Prairienet Companion Summer 1995 - The Prairienet Companion is written and published by Bruce Pea.

Fall 1995 - Full-time employees are hired. Director Manette Messenger; Manager of Systems Services, Martin Wolske; Training and Outreach Coordinator, Lisa Radloff; Content Coordinator, Karen Fletcher.

Winter 1995 - 1996 - Prairienet menus receive a complete overhaul. The Prairienet Advisory Council, with campus and community representatives, is formed.

A federal grant is awarded to Danville Area Community College (D A C C), Lincoln Trail Library System (LTLS), and Prairienet to help establish a Prairienet dial-up connection in the Danville area.

Summer 1996 - Manette Messenger departs. Prairienet is reorganized and now managed by a management team of full-time employees.

July 13, 1996- The grand opening of the Danville modems at the Danville Public Library. DACC provides the onsite support and Internet connection while Prairienet provides the accounts and backend servers. Jeff Williams with D A C C maintains the site. Funding for ongoing support was to have been transferred to local community members and businesses, with support coordinated by the Danville user group.

Fall 1996 - Andrea (Foster) Ingram is hired as part-time Member Services Coordinator. The Free-Net parent organization National Public Telecomputing Network declares bankruptcy. Prairienet is renamed 'Prairienet Community Network'.

Winter 1996 - 1997 - Lisa Radloff departs. The Community Links Program is developed by Karen Fletcher and Ann Bishop.

Spring 1997 - G S L I S Community Network class 450ci participates in the Community Links Program. Prairienet implements membership fees. Jonathan Wenger replaces Andrea Ingram as Member Services Coordinator.

Summer 1997 - Co-founder Greg Newby departs for University of North Carolina Chapel Hill.

Fall 1997 - Prairienet, the Urban League of Champaign County, and G S L I S develop the Community Networking Initiative (funded by the TIIAP grant). Steve Camp joins the full-time staff as Community Liaison. Andrea Ingram returns as a part-time system administrator. Martin Wolske appointed Director.

Winter 1997 - 1998 - Andrea Ingram becomes a full-time employee, Manager of User Services. Ann Bishop is honored by President Clinton during his visit to Champaign-Urbana as one of 15 Local Heroes for her work with Prairienet and the Community Networking Initiative.

Spring 1998 - The Prairienet Web pages are reorganized and redesigned. Advisory Council joins staff at Prairienet retreat to formulate goals. Prairienet begins running its own news server news.prairienet.org and hosts regional cmi.* newsgroup hierarchy as a public service. Prairienet also pilots a P P P service to provide graphical access. Students in the G S L I S Community Information Systems LEEP class develop Community Information Centers, such as Kids Connection. Prairienet enters into a partnership with Carle Foundation to develop HelpSource, a human services guide for East Central Illinois.

Summer 1998 - P P Prairienet - "graphical access to your community" - is opened to the Prairienet member base.

Spring 1999 - The Community Networking Initiative begins overseeing the Prairienet Community Network. Paul Adams becomes director of both projects. Steve Camp heads Member Technical Support and Andrea Ingram becomes Web Resources Manager as well as heading the Community Links project. Martin Wolske returns to head system services.

Summer 1999 - The C N I/Prairienet web pages are restructured and redesigned to combine both programs. C N I/Prairienet moves to its new offices at 510 East Daniel.