Growing like crabgrass in the sun, the Internet information
network is burgeoning, sending out new shoots, new base nodes and
new adjuncts here and there. Tendrils spread, more ground is
covered, communication spreads.
The net makes up the much-touted Information Superhighway, or
what will serve as one in the near future.
Missouri is attracted by the promise of quick, cost-effective
communications, as are some other states. Missouri has pilot
programs in place or planned at 20 libraries around the state.
At one level, the computer network system will serve elementary
and secondary education. At another the users will be higher
education and academic libraries. At another, the system will serve
management of state government. In addition, the Missouri system
will include community information service with the network
available to residents at no cost, a freenet.
"Some other states have separate nets for different functions,"
said Stanley A. Gardner, assistant state librarian. "We cover the
different functions in one system and I think that puts us ahead of
most states in planning and building. We don't have to keep
reinventing the wheel."
The central coordinating agency for the system is called
Morenet, located in Columbia. The name is an acronym for Missouri
Research and Education Network. The net has support from
institutions, including the University of Missouri.
Morenet has adjunct nets operating at Columbia, Springfield,
Lebanon and Pilot Grove. St. Charles is planning to come on line in
1995. Operating costs there are expected to be about $75,000 a
year. Otherlocations are set to follow.
In the present operating group, the net at Pilot Grove stands
out. Its name is RAIN, for Rural Area Information Network, and that
is what it is, a tool for rural users to access the information in
Internet. Pilot Grove is a town of about 700 people west of
Boonville. It may seem odd that such a small place would be using
the sophisticated net, but it works well, said David Jones, one of
Jones is executive vice president of Mid Missouri Telephone Co.
The company put up a matching grant of $15,000 and allows
non-profit RAIN to use space in a phone company building. School
districts and libraries in the area use the service. Counties
contribute to operating funds for RAIN, which has 12 access ports.
This was all started when a resident began asking how farmers could
connect to the net and enjoy quick communication at different
In Fields And Classrooms
Today, users can communicate using electronic mail - e-mail - on
bulletin boards, access information in data bases in the system, or
get information about farming, including market reports.
Government advisories such as how to care for crops or how to
raise new crops - canola, for instance - are available and can help
farmers. Electronics also can assist in determining amounts of seed
and chemicals needed and the rate of application - the calculations
done precisely in order to realize rich crops that are necessary in
highly competitive markets.
"I am impressed with what the net offers to schools," Jones
said. "This includes distance learning. One school can have a
physics teacher, another a Spanish teacher, another a French
teacher. Classes taught by individual teachers can be experienced
at some distance away at five schools, say, on the electronic net,
whereas one small school could not afford to have a specialty
"And imagine this: Users of the net can have access to the
whole collection at the Smithsonian Institution. Imagine what that
can mean to a youngster growing up in a small town. The net
bolsters the schools. If we don't take care of the schools, if we
let them go down and down, then some small towns will just dry up."
People who have a personal computer and a modem can tap into