Like KCBX Public Radio, KCBXnet Community Technology Resources was created to fill a void in the community.
In the early '90s, San Luis Obispo resident Phil Wagner read an intriguing magazine article and learned that online repositories of community information called "Free-Nets" were popping up all over the nation. Nothing like that existed in San Luis Obispo County, so Phil set out to create a community resource--from city council meeting agendas to calendars of local events--that all citizens could access for free.
Phil and his friend Mike Underwood met with community members to brainstorm ways to implement a "SLO County Free-Net," as it was first called. They formed a planning committee, and 35 people from city and county governments, Cal Poly, and local businesses showed up for the first meeting. Once the committee realized "Free" wasn't possible, it dropped the word from the organization's name and shortened it to "SLONET." Charging for Internet services would be necessary if the organization hoped to cover the costs of other activities, such as offering free classes for the public or free e-mail accounts for nonprofit organizations.
In January of 1994, SLONET signed up its first 25 paying subscribers. For the first time, SLO County residents had an on-ramp to the information superhighway. Just six months later the subscribership grew to 150. Now SLONET could offer its free services, beginning with a Virtual Village database of information about local businesses, government agencies, and nonprofit organizations. Next, it offered weekly workshops to teach people how to use computers and access the Internet. Since SLONET didn't have a physical location at the time, workshops were held all over town, from the library to a print shop.
Within a year the organization received its 501(c)3 nonprofit status, hired two paid staff members, and continued to rely heavily on volunteers. (Dedicated volunteers remain at the heart of SLONET today!) Two years later SLONET purchased faster modems and leased a SUN server.
KCBX president, Frank Lanzone, Jr., sat on SLONET's first board of directors. It seemed only natural, then, to discuss the partnering of the two organizations in 1997. After all, both focused on communication, and both provided venues for Central Coast residents to connect to ideas, people, and organizations they would not have access to otherwise. The KCBX board replaced the SLONET board, and appointed Frank as president for both organizations.
Partnering with KCBX moved SLONET forward in a way that was impossible beforehand. Not only did it finally have a physical office, but a building renovation created an onsite Training Center equipped with 20 computers. Now community classes and user support meetings could be held in one place. Two computers were also set up in the lobby for anyone to use for free to access the Web, check their e-mail, or practice what they learned in class. Then in 2000 SLONET signed a contract with the City of San Luis Obispo to videotape city council meetings. When it broadened its scope to include other forms of communication technology, SLONET gained momentum.
The year 2002 found SLONET poised once again to move forward as a community resource. In September 2002, the board of directors voted to adopt a new name for SLONET to reflect its growing ties with KCBX. The new name, "KCBXnet," brings no changes for subscribers, aside from enhanced services.
In the Spring of 2004, KCBXnet decided to expand its services, offering nationwide dial-up access, 24/7 technical support, 100 MB of personal web space, and six emails per account. In essence, KCBXnet took the final step in becoming a full-fledged Internet Service Provider even as it made a commitment to being an integral part of KCBX Public Radio. By taking the step to outsource some of the work that was done locally, KCBXnet could spend more of its energy and resources on giving back to the community and strengthening its local impact.