Ronda Hauben on Mon, 4 Oct 1999 23:47:25 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> Cleveland Freenet closes October 1, 1999

       Cleveland Freenet closed on October 1, 1999
     Long Live Its Goal of Access to the Internet for ALL!

                           by Ronda Hauben, (formerly

     Cleveland Freenet closed on October 1, 1999
     The Cleveland Freenet was something very special in the 
history of the development of the Internet as it made access to 
the Internet avaialable to all in the community.
     It made access available to school children in Cleveland as I 
learned when I gave at talk at a conference in Cleveland in 1988. 
The teacher introducing me told me how her students loved 
being online and communicating with other students.
     It made access available in special new forms. Unsung pioneers 
like Dr. Bohl of the St. Silicon Sports Medicine Clinic on the 
Cleveland Freenet would respond to questions from users with 
sports medicine problems from the earliest days of St. Silicon 
Hospital till the closing of the Freenet on October 1, 1999.
     Dr. Bohl would post the questions sent to him as anonymous posts 
and would provide a helpful response that was available for all 
who looked in on the clinic newsgroup. One user had an experience 
where an injury that more than 20 doctors in the Detroit and Ann Arbor 
areas of Michigan were not able to diagnosis and treat was 
identified by Dr. Bohl. From the email the user wrote to him, he 
provided information about what the problem was likely to be, along 
with the proviso that this was general information not a particular 
diagnosis. Because of his online clinic it was possible to get the 
needed treatment to cure the injury, and then to even correspond 
with the doctor via email in an early use of email between patient 
and doctor. Also all who looked in on the online clinic newsgroup 
would be able to learn about the nature of sports medicine injuries 
and the varieties of their treatment from the helpful responses to 
individual questions posted on the newsgroup.
     The Freenet made an email mailbox available to each user so 
they could use and participate in email. Shortly after I signed 
onto the Cleveland Freenet I had the thrill of receiving a New 
Year's greeting from a friend in Australia.
     One of the most important aspects of Cleveland Freenet was 
when it provided a free and helpful means for its users to 
explore and to post to Usenet newsgroups. After a post on Freenet 
I was soon receiving email from numbers of people and also the 
posts generated interesting and sometimes prolonged discussion.
It was only the fact that Cleveland Freenet provided totally free 
access that made it possible for me to participate in Usenet. And 
for years afterwards, Cleveland Freenet made it possible to have 
a connection to Usenet newsgroups.
     When the green card lawyers wrote their infamous book 
advising on how to spam the Net, they advised spammers to stay 
away from the Freenets, warning them of the acceptible use 
policy of the Freenets which required responsible use from its 
     Sometime after I first got onto Cleveland Freenet, a U.S.
government official from the Office of Technology Assessment 
(OTA) posted requesting input on what users felt should be the 
role of the U.S. government in providing access to the Internet 
to citizens. Many people posted their responses. Several people 
responded that it was important that all have access, as citizens 
would be empowered by an ability to be online.
     Again in 1994 the U.S. government, this time via the National 
Telecommunications Information Administration (NTIA), sponsored an 
online conference requesting input from users about their ideas 
on providing universal access to the Internet. On Cleveland 
Freenet this conference was carried as a local newsgroup making 
it easier to participate than in the mailing list form, as the 
volume of comments was very great.
     Learning from the experience of the Cleveland Freenet, 
Canadian Freenets were started. The Freenet movement in Canada 
soon became a grassroots movement to make access available to all 
Canadians. Also Freenets were set up in some in European 
countries, including Finland and Germany.
     The development of the Cleveland Freenet provided a model 
for how the U.S. government could encourage and support a low 
cost means of access to the Internet for all. The U.S. government 
has missed this opportunity and both the U.S. government and the 
people of the U.S. have lost something very important.
     The notion of a system of computer communications networks 
making email and Usenet access available to all has provided an 
inspiring and important goal.  The global communications that 
the Internet makes possible and affordable is a very precious 
treasure and a signficant new development for our times. The 
Cleveland Freenet has provided a body of experience showing that 
such a goal is far from impossible. Those who recognize the 
importance of this goal need to redouble their efforts to make 
the vision of all having access to e-mail, Usenet newsgroups and 
a browser, a reality. 

    A special thank you to all who contributed to make the experience 
of the Cleveland Freenet such an important one in the development
of the Internet.

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