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Local Tech Wire, AP

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. – The is one of many entities across the country that has applied for federal stimulus funds to expand its broadband network efforts around Asheville. But it was one of four networks featured in an Associated Press story over the weekend that profiled applicants.

, located in Research Triangle Park, also is seeking money in order to expand its North Carolina Research and Education Network.

Plus, the Raleigh-based is getting more than $1 million in federal funds to improving mapping of broadband availability across the state. E-NC has been working to establish more high-speed Internet access under state charter for a decade.

“The federal government will soon start handing out the first $4 billion from a pot of stimulus funds intended to spread high-speed Internet connections to more rural communities, poor neighborhoods and other pockets of the country clamoring for better access,” wrote The AP’s Joelle Tessler. “The challenge is that the government has received $28 billion in requests.”

The “snapshot” of MAIN follows:

“In Appalachia, a nonprofit Internet provider called the Mountain Area Information Network (MAIN) wants help expanding a service started back in the dial-up Internet days so that people in the mountains of North Carolina wouldn’t have to make a long-distance phone call to get online.

“MAIN is asking for $2.5 million to extend its wireless network in Asheville, N.C., and several remote mountain communities. A sister non-profit is asking for $38.8 million to install fiber lines that would connect that network to the Internet.

“Launched in 1996, MAIN today has about 1,200 dial-up subscribers, 400 wireless subscribers and several hundred additional customers who pay to access a Wi-Fi connection for a few hours or a few days at a time. Stimulus money would enable the non-profit to spread its wireless "cloud" to 11,000 additional homes in Asheville public housing projects and surrounding low-income neighborhoods.

“Wally Bowen, MAIN’s executive director, says the service would bring inexpensive mobile Internet connections – with speeds of 3 megabits per second for $30 a month – to a transient, low-income community that includes struggling artists and young entrepreneurs. Many of those people, he says, cannot sign up for the typical one-year or two-year contracts required to get the cheapest Internet rates from the big phone companies.

“MAIN would also use federal funding to bring wireless connections to 1,700 homes in Graham County, an isolated, rural district that has no four-lane highway. Although the library and community college in Graham County’s only town, Robbinsville, do provide high-speed Internet access, budget cuts have restricted the number of hours that those computer centers are open.

“In addition, MAIN would use stimulus money to extend its wireless service to Mount Mitchell State Park, home to the highest point east of the Mississippi. That would allow campers, park rangers and visiting scientists studying acid rain and biodiversity to get real-time updates on weather and trail conditions.”