Board to keep struggling RoFIntUG afloat |

Board to keep struggling RoFIntUG afloat

Post Independent Photo/Jim Noelker

GLENWOOD SPRINGS ” The Roaring Fork Internet Users Group, or RoFIntUG, will attempt to stay afloat, its board agreed on Wednesday.

The board voted to keep the nonprofit Internet service provider going ” at least for six months.

“We’re going to give the organization until Oct. 1 and we can evaluate it at any time before that,” board vice president Dick Weinberg said.

RoFIntUG has steadily been losing members to cheaper dial-up Internet service providers and from high-speed Internet providers such as Qwest, which provides DSL broadband access, and Comcast, which provides cable broadband access.

RoFIntUG was created in 1995 as a member-owned nonprofit Internet service provider. It provided area residents with their first ” and at the time of its inception, the only ” local Internet service available.

Some people who attended Wednesday’s meeting contended that RoFIntUG has already served its purpose by providing Internet service in the early years and said maybe it wouldn’t be so bad to see it go.

But others argued that RoFIntUG is still viable and it should be kept alive because the proceeds from member subscriptions go back into the community through scholarships, computer education and jobs.

But in the nine years since RoFIntUG was started, competition has increased and the organization’s market share has dwindled.

According to the board, an average of more than five members are canceling their RoFIntUG subscriptions every day.

Director laid off, analyst resigns

There have already been some drastic changes at RoFIntUG lately ” and there are more to come:

– RoFIntUG executive director Kim Walton, who earned around $50,000 a year, was recently let go as a cost-cutting measure, board member Joe O’Donnell said.

– When Walton left, Chad LaFrenz, senior systems analyst for RoFIntUG, was given a raise to take care of his own duties and some of Walton’s. But on Wednesday, LaFrenz gave RoFIntUG two-weeks notice and will leave the nonprofit to go work for Sopris Surfers.

– The board voted to hold a board election in three weeks, but no exact date was set. Applications are now being sought from members.

Any person who subscribes to RoFIntUG is considered a member and would be eligible to run for the board. In all, nine board positions will be filled. The top nine vote-getters will win seats on the board, meaning that the entire board could be made up of new members.

Board members disagreed

on severity of crunch

RoFIntUG members who attended Wednesday’s meeting at the Glenwood Springs Community Center expressed surprise that the organization is in such dire financial straits and asked why they weren’t informed of the trouble earlier.

Board president Donni Cochran said members weren’t notified of problems because there has been disagreement on the board about the severity of the financial crunch.

“Some people have said there was a problem for the last two years,” she said.

But everything came to a head at the March board meeting, when the board passed a motion to look into dissolving the nonprofit organization.

That motion was rescinded Wednesday, but there is still the possibility that the organization could dissolve.

O’Donnell also brought up a possible deal where Sopris Surfers, a privately-owned Carbondale-based Internet service provider, would buy RoFIntUG’s customers for $150,000.

Members questioned whether it’s legal for a nonprofit to sell such a list and asked why a member base that’s now worth about $750,000 a year would be sold for $150,000.

“From where I’m coming from is the members,” O’Donnell said.

He said what he meant by that is he wants to make sure members are able to keep their e-mail addresses, something that could happen if RoFIntUG is bought by Sopris Surfers.

Many of the members who attended the meeting Wednesday said they’d like to do whatever it takes to keep RoFIntUG going.

All of these challenges and questions will be examined by the new board, which should be in place by the next meeting on May 4.

“We want to see it stay,” Cochran said.

Contact Greg Masse: 945-8515, ext. 511

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