In early 1995, when the growth of the Internet began to surge, large towns had internet service, but not small towns. Eddie Daniel knew that the Arkansas Public School Computer Network (APSCN) provided Internet connections to Arkansas' public school districts and that a few districts were making the connection available to members of the community. The major problem was the cost of phone lines was beyond the budget of the school district.
Daniel took the idea to Charles Ray Cross and Danny Stewart. On April 25, 1995, the three formed the Prescott Community Freenet Association (PCFA). PCFA would be a not-for-profit organization that would raise funds for the equipment and operations and administer the operations of the service. Cross talked with the administration of the Prescott Public Schools and arranged for a presentation to the school board, which was done by Stewart. The school board enthusiastically approved the idea.
Goal 1 - To Bring Internet Access to the Community
On July 24, 1995, PCFA put the Wolf Den server on-line at Prescott High School, attached two telephone lines and made accounts and free dial-in Internet connections available to the public. This essentially completed the first goal, but growth and challenges would continue.
On April 1, 1996, the fire at Prescott High School essentially ruined the Wolf Den server. With tremendous support from the community, over $10,000 was raised. The debt on the ruined server was retired and a new "state of the art" server (Pentium 166 with 64MB RAM and a pair of 2GB SCSI hard disk drives) was purchased. The new server was put into service at Prescott Middle School on April 15, 1996. With continued support over the next months, the number of telephone lines expanded to nine and there were about 300 user accounts.
In 1997, the Federal Communications Commission established the educational discount called "e-rate" which provided schools with a large discount for their Internet service, but prohibited the offering of "discount Internet service" to the public. PCFA's price of "free" represented a substantial "discount". Therefore, PCFA had to move its server off the school's Internet connection or the school would be denied the e-rate discounts.
PCFA contacted several commercial Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to see if any would be interested in providing commercial Internet service to Prescott. The logical choice was IOCC.com, the ISP that had been supportive of PCFA's efforts since it first learned of what we were doing.
On February 27, 1998, PCFA changed the name of its main server from Wolf Den to PCFA.org and moved it to the IOCC connection at the Bank of Prescott. PCFA dropped the number of telephone lines to one (since IOCC installed twelve) and stopped providing point-to-point protocol (PPP) connections (since that's how a commercial provider earns its customers).
Also on February 27, 1998, PCFA installed a tiny server (386SX 16Mhz with 16MB RAM and a 1.2GB hard disk drive) at the Prescott Middle School. This little Wolf Den provided PCFA's users with a smooth transition to the new service. On March 20, 1999, PCFA donated this server to the Prescott School District. It was retired in 2000.
On September 13, 1999, PCFA.org dropped the last incoming telephone line. All but three of PCFA.org users were on IOCC's service. While this marked the end of the "Free Internet" era, it also signaled a resounding success for PCFA's first goal. PCFA was able to bring permanent Internet access to the community. And, with the contining growth of the internet coupled with a large user base in the community, several other ISPs created a point-of-presence in Prescott and the surrounding area.
PCFA's Pentium 166 server was retired from active duty at 12:02 p.m. on October 4, 2002. It was replaced by a Dell 6100 donated to us by Brett Wish. On December 10, 2009, in order to reduce maintenance duties, the web site was migrated to a web hosting service, courtesy of Danny Stewart.
Goal 2 - To Provide a Wealth of Information About the Community to the Rest of the World
From the first day, July 25, 1995, Wolf Den provided information about Prescott and Nevada County. Local residents could research the heritage of the community. World Wide Web users could look for material on the area when searching for a vacation location or an industrial site.
PCFA.org continues to provide many resources, which are indexed on the home page, in order to accomplish and continue with this goal.
The Prescott Community Freenet Association secured the funding for the PCFA.org servers and telephone lines.The three-member board of directors are Eddie Daniel, Joan Stuard, and Spot Daniel.
Contributions may be sent to:
Contributions to PCFA are tax-deductible. PCFA's employer identification number (EIN) is 71-0775707.