Rochester Free-Net (RFN) operates the Genesee Gateway (GGW). It is a not-for-profit organization best known for providing web hosting services to other local not-for-profit organizations. Its home page is http://ggw.org .
In 1994, local members of the FidoNet hobbyist communication network wanted to scale-up their efforts and create a community-oriented network for Rochester. The predominate model for such networks at the time was promoted by the Cleveland Free-Net; essentially a big dial-up system that had BBS-style discussion forums and active involvement from the community. Free-Net systems modeled after the Cleveland Free-Net were popping up all over the country and a group called the National Public Telecomputing Network (NPTN) formed around them to promote the concept.
RFN joined the NPTN with the intention of setting up a Free-Net system in Rochester. But instead of the typical Free-Net system (a large Unix-based machine with many dial-up lines), RFN decided to use the World Wide Web instead. While not as ubiquitous in 1994 as it is today, the World Wide Web was clearly going to be the future and RFN jumped on it.
In an effort to bootstrap RFN's larger plans for a community-oriented network for Rochester, they decided to start by helping not-for-profit organizations set up web sites for free. RFN found volunteers who would work with these organizations to build and maintain their web sites. This was a unique service at the time, enabling organizations (many who were not technically oriented) to have a presence on the World Wide Web. Today, most organizations find members in their ranks to build and maintain their web sites and RFN's volunteers are rarely needed for that.
In addition to the Genesee Gateway web hosting service, RFN has been involved with numerous services and projects. RFN has sponsored educational seminars (for example, child safety on the Internet for parents), training sessions in web tools and technologies, a number of user groups, an archive of the popular SoundBytes radio show, and quirky projects such as making the Monroe County Board of Elections live elections results available via the web.
Today, RFN continues to operate the Genesee Gateway and is behind efforts to set up community broadband services in Rochester.
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Whoah—Fidonet! Cleveland Freenet! As a former Fidonet sysop and email@example.com, this warms my heart. How are these community broadband services going? How can we get involved? —TobinFricke