Columbia Online Information Network, a not-for-profit community project that was mid-Missouri’s first Internet provider, announced Friday that it would end dial-up service for its remaining 1,600 subscribers in June.
COIN Director Marilyn McLeod said income from member dues decreased about 25 percent last year. She attributed the decline to increasing availability of affordable high-speed Internet connections, such as cable and DSL. COIN dial-up service costs $120 a year.
“We’ve always kept our costs down because we’ve tried to keep the service affordable for those least likely to have Internet connections,” McLeod said. “But our costs of telephone lines and staffing keep going up, and our income is going down, and we’ve reached a moment where we have to discontinue the service.”
When COIN began as a pilot project of MU, the city of Columbia, Columbia Public Schools and Daniel Boone Regional Library in 1993, the World Wide Web didn’t yet exist.
COIN also provides a Web-hosting service for more than 200 nonprofit organizations, including social-service agencies, arts organizations, historical societies, as well as COIN’s Web site, which serves as a centralized information resource for mid-Missouri.
The library, where COIN operates its help desk, will take over COIN’s Web-hosting service after June 30.
Jo Sapp, library board member and president of the League of Woman Voters, which uses COIN for its Web site, said she is sad to see COIN end its service.
“I’m sad about it, because it was a grand experiment and one of the first of its kind in the country,” Sapp said. “It was one of the early attempts to involve a cross section of the community with this new information project.”
Bertrice Bartlett, another League of Woman Voters and library board member, uses COIN for her dial-up connection and e-mail.
“I’m very disappointed that I’ll have to find something else, because it was just a marvelous service,” Bartlett said.
McLeod said COIN has many loyal members who are sad to see it go.
“We’re confident that our members will be able to get high- quality service from commercial providers at a reasonable cost,” she said.
Bartlett said she would have to do research before finding a new provider.
“There are many options out there, none of which seem all that attractive to me,” Bartlett said. “It wasn’t so much the low cost of COIN but the community aspect and my liking it being an extension of the library services.”