Until a few months ago, Julie Keeler saw herself as a regular churchgoer with a full spiritual life.
Then she joined P.O.W.E.R.Net, a company providing access to the Internet, and she discovered a much bigger world in which to practice her faith.
“It’s really opened my mind to what this community has for Christians,” said the Spokane Valley mother and business owner.
“I’ve learned, among other things, that Christians are certainly not a minority here.”
She owes that discovery to Dalton Bly, a 27-year-old Spokane resident who started P.O.W.E.R.Net last fall.
His company is the first in the area encouraging Christians to go forth upon the cyber highway and rejoice in its splendors.
Other Internet companies here and elsewhere help people find religious information.
Bly’s main business goal, however, is helping Christians find relevant and solid information.
“People know upfront that my goal is providing resources that are Christian and focused on Jesus,” said Bly, who also works as a customer service consultant for Olivetti North America Inc.
Subscribers to P.O.W.E.R.Net can track down scholarly studies and analyses of the Bible or Dead Sea Scrolls.
“There’s an awful lot of information there. I’m always finding new sources, a lot of it because people tell me things they’ve found,” he said.
His list of recommended Internet sites runs from the on-line Sistine Chapel paintings to video clips from the Walt Disney Studios.
Bly’s service is one of several in Spokane that offer Internet services for a monthly fee.
Subscribers get software that connects them to the Internet, so they can head off in pursuit of information or other computer users.
Bly’s parents in Billings, Mont., gave him most of the $60,000 he’s spent for equipment and Internet access from another Spokane company, CompuTech.
Though Bly is using P.O.W.E.R.Net to reach out to Christian netsurfers, he’s resisted assuming the role of the firm’s morality watchdog.
He knows some Christian subscribers would back his blocking access to small sections of the Internet containing pornographic photos or X-rated language.
But for now, Bly won’t do that.
“I want my members to be in control of what comes into their household,” he said, adding he’ll help families find software that can block access to offensive material.
Bly said he’d rather have subscribers concentrate on the Internet’s useful side, not its unruly, uncensored back alleys.
Keeler, for one, has had no trouble finding a variety of discussion groups or mailing lists that put her in touch with other Christians.
Some are people also living in Spokane and using the Internet.
Others are from all over, ranging from a woman in Australia that Keeler writes to regularly, to an assortment of people across the country she communicates with by e-mail.
“I’ve gotten involved in a couple of discussions on what (the Book of) Revelations means. Another had to do with the Resurrection, where some people were asking for advice on how to find references to it in the Bible,” she said.
Administering P.O.W.E.R.Net takes Bly four or five hours each evening. He’s convinced it won’t survive unless he finds backers from area church groups or a supportive donor.
He’d like enough backing so that three other staff members could come on board - one to design World Wide Web documents, another to administer the equipment and a third to handle paperwork.
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MEMO: P.O.W.E.R.Net can be reached at email@example.com or http:/ /www.poweramp.net/index.html