The nonprofit Huron Valley Community Network shut down in November, twenty years after going online with an Internet connection, two volunteers, and two computers–a server plus a backup in case it broke.
“The idea was: how can we give people some place to dial into so they can talk to each other,” laughs Steve Weiss, HVCN’s longest and most active volunteer staff member. “Our mission was to get the community hooked on technology.”
With a master’s degree from MIT and a PhD from the U-M in computer science, Weiss was asked to join as the techie. “I was the guy who put up the system and moved things over every few years. The day-to-day work was answering questions and doing things users can’t do themselves. I shared that with Valerie Mates, my assistant, who’s been here since the beginning.”
In 1995, “there was not a lot of computer access to the Internet,” Mates recalls. “We helped 213 local organizations” get online. HVCN did it with a tiny annual budget raised from users and personal donations and an all-volunteer staff.
“That was a factor in the decision to close,” Weiss explains. “We had board members who were looking to stop, and we didn’t have suitable replacements for them.” Mates notes that their users now have many alternatives: “There are a lot of places that offer free web pages and tools for building a web page. They have better tools than what we were offering.”
“I feel very proud of what we’ve done, but our relevance has been diminishing,” says Weiss. “I don’t think I’ll miss it but I won’t be able to be proud of it anymore.”