inona has made a long step toward the 21st century by approving plans for a 25-mile fiber-optic network to serve schools, colleges and public bodies.

The network will link the community to the so-called information superhighway which provides access to a worldwide data bases and permits transmission of words, photos, videos and computer data.

The $600,000 system will be a gift of the Hiawatha Education Foundation whose president is Bob Kierlin, president and chairman of Fastenal. Fastenal is a highly successful manufacturing company which has made major contributions to Cotter High School and other causes in Winona.

The first phase of the project, which will cover 10 miles, will link St. Mary's College, Cotter High School, Winona Senior High School, Winona State University, TCI of Southern Minnesota, Winona City Hall, Community Memorial Hospital and Winona Technical College.

Luminet, a nonprofit group established by Hiawatha Education Foundation, will direct the network. Sprint, a long-distance telephone company, will work with Luminet and provide a link to a worldwide fiber-optic network.

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The system also will be connected to a satellite center at Cotter High. The cost of the satellite equipment will put the total price over $1 million.

The network will link schools and colleges to higher education institutions throughout the state and elsewhere in the world. It will enable the hospital to be in contact with physicians and patients in distant areas.

The system presumably will have a favorable impact on economic development as well as education.

The generous gift by the Hiawatha Education Foundation puts Winona in the forefront of cities seeking to adjust to the swiftly changing world of communication.

Its progress will be watched by neighboring communities which also should be thinking about electronic highways of the future. @et