Written by Daniel Walton
Independent Internet Service Providers in Western North Carolina
Capital at Play talks to area internet pioneers, elected officials, and ISP operators about the challenges related to bringing reliable, high speed internet to our mountains.
One day in 1994, Bill Fishburne was making the rounds of his employees at The Electronic Office, an information technology provider based in South Asheville. Everyone appeared to be hard at work on the usual challenges of Microsoft MS-DOS and Apple PowerMac computers—with the notable exception of the printer technician, Carlos Ramirez.
“Carlos was doing something I didn’t recognize, so I walked over and asked him what it was,” remembers Fishburne. “He said, ‘The Internet!’ and I said, ‘The what?’”
After a few minutes of explanation, Fishburne realized that Ramirez could connect almost instantaneously with other computer users from all over the world. He immediately got up from the technician’s demonstration and turned the corner to visit the founder of The Electronic Office, Kemper Brown. “I sat down in his office and said, ‘Kemper, I just saw the future,’” Fishburne recalls.
From that conversation was born Internet of Asheville (IOA), the very first internet service provider (ISP) in Western North Carolina. By early 1995, customers were paying $49.95 per month to call into IOA’s Portmaster, a machine that could connect 24 computers to the internet simultaneously at 56 kilobits per second.
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