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Internet client bid baits Tampa officials

John Stebbins
August 18, 1995
Tampa Tribune

SOMEWHERE ON THE INTERNET - Tampa officials say they have found themselves cruising along the information superhighway not in a snazzy Ferrari or posh Rolls Royce, but something more akin to a go-cart.

And that has them looking for a vehicle more suited to carrying The Big Guava's charms to the millions of people who use computers to gather information.

The discovery was made when city planning Director Roger Wehling was exploring the World Wide Web - a popular way to access thousands of computers linked by the Internet.

For the heck of it, Wehling plugged in the name Tampa and up popped something called CityLink, which listed Tampa and a handful of other Florida cities. But when he accessed the Tampa link, he said the information that appeared was skeletal at best and the design of the electronic pages was disappointing.

You get what you pay for, said Carol Blake of Blake & Bray Inc, in Mandeville, La. She said her company put the Tampa site on the Internet free of charge about a year ago after getting information from the local convention and tourism bureau.

Wehling said he called Blake's company and told them he was not impressed. He noted that of the six things to see in Tampa, one - a Christmas House - was near Ocala, and another attraction was a television talk show. Each item had a one-sentence description.

Blake said her company put Tampa and other cities on, the World Wide Web as a "community service project" and would be glad to upgrade the present site - for a price.

She said Tampa officials can have a "really cool" home page on the Internet for about $975 a year. Each additional page is about $500.

Tampa City Administrator Sam Halter, an Internet buff himself, said the city is investigating the possibility of establishing a more elaborate web site for the city.

A search of the Internet found other companies also had established Tampa-related sites, some more elaborate than CityLink.

Bill Frezza, an Internet observer and president of Wireless Computing Associates, said the Internet has spawned thousands of entrepreneurial companies looking to turn a profit from the public's growing interest in computers.

"Casting a wide net hoping to find a chamber of commerce or city as a customer is a great idea," Frezza said. "Is it a come-on? Sure it is. That is how American business works."