Information Galore, Inc., (a.k.a. Infogo) of El Dorado (Union County) was the first commercial Internet service provider (ISP) in Arkansas. Although the company was short-lived, it had a notable impact upon economic and educational initiatives in southern Arkansas, as well as parts of Texas and Louisiana.
Infogo was founded by six individuals. John Gray was a world-famous geologist who was appointed to serve on the Arkansas Geological Commission (now Arkansas Geological Survey) several times by Governor Bill Clinton and who did work for the United Nations. Gray, along with Watt McKinney, Leon Wood, William L. (Billy) Cook, and Robert McKinney each invested $5,000. Joe Brazeal was a board member of ARKnet, the state’s educational computer network, and provided technical expertise to the new company. In late 1993, ARKnet knew the Internet would soon be going commercial and began working to develop a business plan that would provide Internet access to people in the region.
At the time that Information Galore launched, in May 1994, the only access to online information was through text-based sources such as telnet, a means to access another computer remotely, and ftp (file transfer protocol). Internet access was non-commercial and available through only one of the state’s nineteen institutions of higher learning via the institution’s library or computer courses.
Because there was not an economical means to provide this service to the rural or remote regions of Arkansas, the ARKnet board approved access via South Arkansas Community College until such access was available from another source at a reasonable price; the connectivity to the college was severed before a full year was up, with Information Galore connecting to a company called Sybaline via its own circuit. Information Galore, South Arkansas Community College, and ARKnet agreed to provide a point of access in exchange for $2,000, though only on a limited basis. Information Galore provided eight local dial-in lines for the general public.
Later, the company acquired its own connection to the Internet via a 56 kbps (kilobits per second) line to Little Rock (Pulaski County). Within a year, the company grew from serving one city with a handful of customers to over 1,200 customers in twenty-six cities throughout southern Arkansas. The service area covered the southern third of the state.
Information Galore was the “electronic oil” of south Arkansas. Prior to the company’s establishment, there was not much opportunity in terms of technology for the southern region of the state. Information Galore was thus a catalyst for the transformation of the region as the number of technology-based businesses increased and more people began purchasing computers.
The company obtained the first commercial class C Internet address in Arkansas. Information Galore employed wireless technology to connect from the roof of the Exchange Bank building in El Dorado to South Arkansas Community College, establishing access from May to August 1994. It was also the first in Arkansas to give a public library, Barton Library, wireless Internet access, the signal being sent directly from the top of the Exchange Bank to the library.
Eventually, Information Galore served twenty-six cities in southern Arkansas. A legal dispute between Joe Brazeal and a group of new investors that had bought out the original founders resulted in Brazeal’s gaining complete control of the company, which was by then in debt. In 1998, after rebuilding the company, he sold it to Internet Partners of America, based in Fort Smith (Sebastian County).
For additional information:
Wilson, Shea. “New business—Information Galore provides a link with Internet, databases.” El Dorado News-Times. July 11, 1994, p. 6A.
Little Rock, Arkansas
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