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Telecommunications at the Fair

Vendors are more set on dispensing information than selling their wares

If you?re curious about the latest wireless phone or high-speed Internet services, companies are lining up to answer questions at the Jackson County Fair's Technology Pavilion.

Commercial exhibits make up more than half the pavilion's booths and are staffed with workers ready to show off their firm's offerings.

But the companies say they're pitching information more than sales. Several aren't even accepting orders at the booths, using them only to pass out brochures and build visibility, not commissions.

This is a non-sale event, says AT&T Wireless? Jill Harris. This is the most low-pressure place for consumers to come and ask questions.

Based on the early fair traffic, Harris isn't sure people understand that. Some seem scared of the sales people and uneasy about approaching. The only direct marketing AT&T Wireless is doing is offering a free call and a coupon to get a free long-distance card. She says the closest thing to a catch is that you have to take the coupon to the company's Medford store to get the phone card.

Other vendors say they have similar expectations. They want to spread information and build awareness of what they offer.

A lot of people don't realize what they can get, says InternetCDS? Doug Harris. It's getting our name out in front of people and telling them what's available.

InternetCDS is showing off its high-speed digital subscriber line service and its high-speed wireless service; both products have been available for businesses for some time but the company is just beginning to target residential customers.

Charter Communications, the cable and Internet company previously known as Falcon and TCI, is showing off its digital cable television as well as its Internet services.

It's education that we are giving out, says Charter's Jesse Grabowski.

ePeople, a wireless phone and pager company, doesn't even have a formal store yet — it plans to open one in Ashland soon — but decided it was important to be at the fair.

It's a human commercial, says Bryan Tillitson, the company's owner.

Jason Alexander of Answer Page says the fair booth is mainly about telling people who Answer Page is and what they have to offer.

We're mainly just telling people what new products we have, he says.

While high-speed Web connections of various types are the big feature being touted by Internet service providers such as InternetCDS, Charter and CyberNet, the mobile phone crowd is pushing Web interfaces and two-way radio features.

Nextel and AT&T Wireless, the two main vendors featured, both offer a two-way radio service similar to a walkie-talkie on their latest phones. Several models also offer e-mail and access to the Internet right through the phone.

12:30 Update -

If you haven't had a chance to make it to the Jackson County Fair just yet, you can get a sneak peak on the Internet.

A digital photo album full of shots taken at the fair is one the Jackson County Fair Web site, . To see them, click to the site - there's a link on the top of this page - and hit the "Photo album" button on the left side. There's also a Web Cam with live images from the technology pavilion; a similar camera is featured here at

— And digital camera packing fairgoers can bring their pictures to the technology pavilion and have them added to the collection, according to Project A's Jim Teece.

"It'll be like amateur photojournalism," he says.

There's also online video from the technology pavilion's i-land Caf?. The caf?'s creator, Josh Bradley, used a digital video camera to record action from the caf? and then posted it on a Web site created for the cafe. The site, , was actually created from the caf? during the fair. To get to the video clips from the site, click the "experience" button; the clips do take time to load. For still photos, click "see."

Recording and posting the video shows people the capabilities of the latest digital video photography and Bradley plans to continue adding clips throughout the fair.

Rogue Valley Television is also broadcasting live shows from the technology pavilion from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., including some its regular shows such as "Tech Talk" and "Medford Forum." RVTV's Chris Heinz is working from the fair, editing video right in the pavilion.

4:30 Update -

One of the central attractions at the US West Technology Pavilion is the company's learning lab, which is designed to help expose people to the Internet and learn basic skills like surfing and searching.

Traffic to the area, which features a dozen laptops as part of its Widening Our World program, was decent for the first few days. However, the lab was closed much of Thursday afternoon for a "technology upgrade." A sign posted at the lab said it would reopen later today.

Several users complained about the speed of the Internet connections in lab. The majority of booths in the pavilion were connected to the Net through an always-on connection through two so-called T-1s for a combined bandwidth of three megabytes provided by Internet CDS. The US West lab, however, was using a dial-up modem connection that proved far less speedy.

The lab was popular early on and expected to receive several hundred visitors, according to instructor Paul Brock. On Wednesday in particular, Brock says a lot of senior citizens curious about the Internet stopped by.

"I've talked to a lot of people who had never used a computer," he says.

As of 4 p.m., the lab remained closed and Brock was not on site to explain the closure. The entire tech pavilion was scheduled to close between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. for an exhibitors' celebration of the pavilion's fifth year.