Electronic bulletin boards are some of the most popular destinations on the Information Highway. Numbering about 60,000 today, the boards are often dedicated to a specific interest, such as UFOs, model railroads, or Irish culture. But because the systems are usually simple setups--you need just a PC and a couple of modems--people wanting to dial in usually have to pay for direct, long-distance phone calls.
Not for long, though, if Concentric Research Corp. in Bay City, Mich., has its way. The company is setting up BBS Direct, a data network designed for reaching small, independent bulletin-board systems. Customers will pay a flat rate of $30 a month and have unlimited access to all participating boards. They'll still have to pay each board's subscription fees, though. When the network opens in late September, it will offer members in the 100 largest metropolitan areas access to 30 bulletin boards with a simple local call. Concentric hopes to add 250 more cities to its network over the following 18 months. Using "frame relay," a transmission technology supplied by Racal-Datacom, BBS Direct also will connect customers to the global Internet.