More Jackson County Opinions...

June 20, 2001


Column
By Rochelle Beckstine
The Jackson Herald
June 20, 2001

Free Internet?
I don't use the Internet very often. My husband and I keep an email account which we usually check every other day, then we log off. No surfing. No cyber chats. No instant messaging. Every month or so we purchase something online that we saw in a catalogue snail-mailed to our house. So we don't see the need to spend $19.95 per month for Internet service. Not when we can wade through banner ads and get the same service for free.
A year ago we found the perfect free Internet provider in Netzero. We could have email and an unlimited number of hours for free. While we would log on, Netzero would play a clip from a fictitious Supreme Court hearing. The Netzero CEO argues to the justices that Internet is a basic human right and Netzero will continue to supply the American people with the free service. It was pretty uplifting and it entertained while I waited for my slow modem to connect. I can remember thinking that I would always be able to use Netzero for free. After all, they had principles to support.
It started off small. We got an email that said anyone using over 100 hours per week would be charged a fee of $9.95. I guess they figured they were cheaper than America Online so what if it wasn't technically "free," $9.95 is chump change when the American people are spending $3.50 for a gallon of milk and $40 for a dinner at Applebee's. Eric and I didn't cave. We weren't going to spend that much time on the Internet anyone so we said "No thanks" to their offer.
Nearly the next time we logged on, a banner popped up to occupy a quarter of the computer screen. Netzero announced the banner would help us navigate better. There are only a few buttons devoted to navigating the Internet. The rest of the banner flashes ads and invited us to upgrade to Netzero Platinum for only $9.95 a month to get rid of the new "navigation tool." (So they knew it would be annoying.) The constantly changing picture slows our 56K modem down considerably. I spend a half hour waiting for the Mainstreet Newspaper page to load. Obviously they were trying to push us over the 100 hour clause. That might have worked on a lesser couple, but we didn't cave.
And then, as if the new banner box didn't slow us down enough, their new annoyance tactic was pop-up ads. You finally get a page loaded and you're scrolling along and up pops an ad box. It disorients you. Half the time it's the Netzero Platinum invitation. At this point, it became a matter of my principles versus their promise of free Internet. Of all the times the commercial world has bowed to the almighty buck, I had thought Netzero would not crumble. I vowed that I would not be satisfied until I was the last person getting free Internet service on this planet. Their "Only $9.95 per month" was not going to sucker me in. I closed their little pop-up boxes before they even loaded the ads. I wasn't going to read a single one. I wasn't even going to glance down at their flashing banner box.
Their masterminds went to work and created the next annoyance. Now, when I log on, I get stuck on a page with no exit. There is no window at the top where I can type in another address. There is only links to Netzero's sponsors. They thought I would be forced to visit one of their sponsors by doing this, but I tricked them. Hit Control, Alt, Delete and shut down the page, then quickly click on the mail icon. I win again. I have an email with a web address on it so all I have to do is click on it and I've bypassed the whole visit sponsors deal.
Thursday, I had every intention of doing some research at home for a column I wanted to write for this week. I logged on. I maneuvered my way past their sponsors and got to the page I needed. I clicked the article I wanted to bring up. I got kicked off. "Try again later," it said. I tried again. And again. And again. Sometimes I made it to my page. Sometimes I didn't even make it past user preferences. I sat and waited five minutes (I was watching my little computer clock) at the computer screen, my daughter woke up, I went and got her from her crib, changed her diaper and went back downstairs where the computer was still checking user preferences. That's fine, I thought. So now instead of writing a column about murder in the South (which I will do later), I'm writing an anti-Netzero column. They lie to you. They make you believe the whole America and apple pie thing still exists. Milk could be delivered to your front stoop and neighborhoods have block parties where everyone brings a covered dish. I lived in la-la land for awhile, but I have opened my eyes and what I see isn't pretty. I keep hearing the song "Another One Bites the Dust" as one more pure thing sells out to commercialism. But I'm still not paying for Internet service.
Rochelle Beckstine is a reporter for MainStreet Newspapers.

Column
By Tim Thomas
The Jackson Herald
June 20, 2001


Peach State solutions
When the news came last week that Peach State Speedway had "temporarily suspended all race track operations," it was not a great surprise. Financial woes have plagued the Dry Pond track for some time.
Many close to the situation were optimistic for a financial turnaround when current lease holders John Huffman and Dr. Jim Kasin came on the scene a few years back, but that turnaround has yet to materialize.
To borrow a phrase from football season, let's play armchair quarterback and offer some solutions to Peach State's financial difficulties.
Work to heal financial wounds in the community. Several years ago, a number of local businesses and individuals were apparently left holding bad checks and outstanding debts from the those who previously operated the Dry Pond track. As a result, there are a lot of potential sponsors, fans and drivers who have sworn never to do business at Peach State again. That situation is a financial handicap to anyone doing business at the track, and it must be addressed before a serious turnaround can be attained. Huffman and/or Kasin should determine who was wronged in the past, sit down face-to-face with each one, and try to resurrect their support.
Bring back Super Late Models. This seems to be a no-brainer, but apparently isn't. There are a number of local drivers who have Super Late Model cars in their shops with no track nearby to race them on. The addition of a Super Late Model class at Peach State would offer an easy fix, and should bring a substantial increase in attendance.
Work harder to seek new sponsors. Newer businesses in the area such as Caterpillar and Freightliner aren't subject to Peach State's difficulties of the past, and represent a largely untapped base of local marketing partners. Huffman is quoted in the story that appears in the Jackson Herald as saying the financial situation in Jackson County is not conducive to obtaining sponsorship. That's hogwash, and the success of Lanier National Speedway proves it.
Choose track managers carefully. The name of one former manager always seems to pop up during conversations about the track's problems. I won't mention his name here, but nearly everyone I've spoken with about Peach State has wound up pointing a finger in his direction.
The odd thing about Mr. X, as we'll call him, is that he seems to have nine lives when it comes to Peach State. Just when you think you've seen the last of him, he's back in charge.
According to one source at the track, drivers were told prior to last week's races that Mr. X would no longer be associated in any way with Peach State Speedway. The announcement was apparently answered with a round of applause. Warning to drivers: don't count those chicks just yet; I believe we're only on life number five or six here.
Once the choice is made, give managers a chance to prove themselves. Ask anyone who's sat in the big chair at Peach State how much decision-making authority they've had. Without exception, you'll be laughed out of the office. Why hire someone to manage the track locally if they can't make decisions as simple as how much money to spend on local advertising? Take your time in choosing a quality candidate for the job, and give that person ample room to work.
Be firm with rules. Last year, one of our local drivers allowed me to borrow a Peach State rule book for a few weeks. I was impressed with its thoroughness and attention to detail. However, I soon found through personal experience and eyewitness testimony that certain drivers saw the rules as nothing more than suggestions, and while some were forced to comply, others got by with a wink. That's ridiculous. If the playing field isn't level, who wants to participate?
Peach State has a storied history, and could again become a prime attraction for area race fans. Let's hope for the sakes of our area drivers and Peach State's local employees that the higher-ups can and will make the moves necessary to reach that goal.

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