Our Humble Beginnings
1993 - Jordan Seidel, a young man in his early 20's, read about this "Internet" thing and decided that there should be an organization created in Chester County to ensure that Chester County Citizens are given equal access to this new (Internet) resource. He read how those without this technology would be at a disadvantage in the years ahead.
He searched and found Eric Raymond, a local "hacker", to write the computer program and do the technical work. He also assembled a board of directors of local people to help him to form a non-profit corporation.
Perry Pepper, the President of Chester County Hospital stepped forward and allowed him to use a dormitory room in the nurses quarters to house the equipment and gave a grant of $5000. West Chester University provided our first internet feed (19k bps) and a grant of $2600. 1st National Bank of Chester County provided a grant of $6000 to purchase the equipment and modems. Later on, a friend of Eric Raymond's (Avi Freedman) provided the a faster internet feed 56K, which was shared by all users!
1994 March - The system was launched. No graphics just text. It was a glorified BBS centered around a city metaphor. We didn't have users we had citizens. Your information was not in the "system" directory it was on "technology place" and the place you changed your e-mail address was of course...the "Post Office". The early days were plagued with tremendous technical challenges and the system could be down for weeks at a time while we dealt with system crashes.
Expanding our reach
1995 October - we received our first grant from the Philadelphia Foundation to launch the "FreeLink" project. Jordan wanted to make sure that EVERYONE in the community could have access to the internet. The plan was to place computers in all the locations that people gather so that it would be convenient. We would provide the equipment, the phone lines and even the people to teach how to use it. This was a very ambitious goal with just volunteers and a small amount of money to purchase equipment and pay for all the phone lines. The initial Free Link sites included the YWCA, La Communidad Hispanica, WC Community Center, West Chester Senior Center, Avon Grove & WC Library, and the Coatesville Community Center.
Our hopes were to expand to many locations, however the concept did not take off as we had hoped. Accessing the Internet from public places was not something that generated great demand.
A change of place
1997 - We were met what seemed at the time our greatest challenge. The hospital needed us to move from the nurse's dormitory so they could remodel the building. Dr. Adler, the President of West Chester University stepped in and, not only provided us a room for our equipment, but gave us access to their fiber optic internet feed....10 feet from where it entered the campus. Needless to say our technical people were doing hand springs over this much connectivity this close to us. With this expanded connectivity we were able to launch graphics access shortly thereafter.
Volunteers step in
1999 Technical volunteers redesigned our web site, added many new interactive pages and added user access to mailing lists.
Also added was a new user interface for administering the system with non-technical volunteers.
It was about this time period that CCIL hired a part-time executive director.
2001 - We found that the technical demands of running a 24/7 internet system was beyond the scope of our volunteer staff so CCIL outsourced the core system monitoring to Linuxforce, a leader in the new Linux software movement that was gaining popularity. CCIL system was reconstructed on a Linux platform.
2002 - With the system now stabilized after a change in system administration, the focus of the organization turned to serving the core groups that the organization intended to support - the underserved and technologically marginalized.
2009 - Thanks to the efforts of Tanya Baxter, CCIL received a generous grant from the West Chester Area Education Association that enabled us to continue servicing our 1500 members via CCIL's own dial-up as well as third party broadband connections and to provide new laptop computers to deserving college bound graduating seniors. CCIL upgraded its servers and made both current and historical CCIL documents accessible online. CCIL expanded its outreach by translating some of its support material into Spanish.
2010 - We revived a service that was very well-received in previous years; the providing of free computers to students and families that were unable to access the internet because of lack of a home computer. We refocused the program to providing a complete laptop computer system to deserving college-bound graduating High School seniors who might otherwise not be able to start their college careers with a adequate computer.
2014 - With our old telephone equipment and the declining use of low-speed dialup as a means to access the internet, we discontinued our dialup internet access service. We also began to investigate and evaluate methods by which we could offer high-speed internet access for free or at low-cost.
2016 - Recognizing that our computer computers and software were old and being very concerned about potential security vulnerabilities, we moved our entire infrastructure into Google Apps for Non-Profits and renamed our suite of email and other internet services as "CCIL Apps".