Computer industry pundits have long said that in the future, people will be able to hold town meetings, make appointments with their doctors, or even rent a video--all using personal computers connected via high-capacity fiber-optic cable. But for some residents of tiny Blacksburg, Va., such a network will be available by this summer.
The Blacksburg Electronic Village is a pilot program designed by the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University not only to connect students living off-campus with the university's computer network but also to study the intricacies of running a "digital information superhighway." C&P Telephone, the local Baby Bell and project partner, has committed over $6.5 million in fiber-optic cable, networking equipment, and services. The setup is also available to Blacksburg's local residents, businesses, and elementary schools, creating a true community. Paul Gherman, a project director for Virginia Tech, says he's trying to sign up outside networks such as CompuServe, to give the "electronic village" global reach.