AUSTRALIAN PUBLIC ACCESS NETWORK ASSOCIATION INC.
VRN: A0026600C ARBN: 081 355 722 ABN: 74 766 293 648
2005 ANNUAL REPORT
2004/2005 lived up to our expectations of ongoing and increasing challenges for APANA. Many Internet Service Providers and Telecommunication Companies are offering services such as:
Broadband with free installation and free/discounted months
Bundled Home Telephone / Broadband deals which incorporate bonuses such as free local calls and unlimited local calls
Capping plans on Mobile/Home Telephone, when a Broadband service is combined
Wireless Broadband services where ADSL and Cable is not available or feasible
APANA simply lacks the resources necessary to compete with such offerings, and in my belief, the focus should not be on competing, but rather focusing on our existing Members and improving our services to better meet the needs of our Members.
As dialup gradually becomes a dated technology, APANA cannot continue to rely on the acquisition of new Members using dialup. Where Members cannot access ADSL due to limitations such as Pair Gain, exchange distance and poor line quality, APANA can offer Members permanent dialup connections, which whilst not ideal for the Member, do provide ongoing/unlimited access capability and a cost comparable to regular dialup or ISDN.
It was saddening to see the Northern Wollongong Region end operations, due to lack of Members with adequate technical skills and knowledge to maintain the server. I wish to make special mention to Sid Moir, Joel Moir and Chris Roughsedge for the tireless efforts they did contribute to the Region and wish them all the best for their future endeavours.
Our appreciation goes to Jeremy Malcolm, for his contributions towards APANA over years, both in service on the Management Committee as the Perth representative and for the last three years, as National Secretary. In this time, Jeremy has revamped the National website, making many improvements and consolidating duplicated sections. We again wish Jeremy all the best in his future endeavours.
In closing, I would again like to send my thanks for the volunteers who devote their time towards APANA’s daily operation. All Members wholeheartedly appreciate your tireless efforts and dedication. It is this devotion that will see APANA continue into the future.
As much as I would like to make this an optimistic report for the future of all APANA regions, the events of this past year make that impossible. With the exception of Hunter Region, all regions suffered significant unexpected losses in membership, the financial impact of that on previously strong regions was dramatic. The sudden closure of Wollongong Region brought the realisation that every region is at risk of the same fate if measures are not taken to ensure that downtimes are kept to a minimum in the event of equipment failure. Unfortunately even these measures are often not enough, because all regions are dependent on commercial ISPs and/or Telstra services and when disruptions to their services occur the majority of regional members seem not to understand that such incidents are beyond APANA’s control.
It is assumed by some regions that the losses most regions have suffered have been due to members being enticed away by the widely advertised and presumed affordability of broadband connections and for members with no particular interest in the organisation apart from what it can offer them, this is undoubtedly the case. However, in the 3 regions that have acquired the most new members within the past 12 months, the majority of those 24 new members have joined because they wanted basic dialup access and/or other support services not provided by commercial ISPs. I don’t believe it is coincidence that those 3 regions not only offer the cheapest dialup access but also provide a wider range of support services to their members than other regions.
NATIONAL: A small operating profit for the year of just under $300 was completely eroded by the rebate made to regions on July 1, 2004 and the write-off of Wollongong’s debt to National on June 30, 2005.
ACT: ACT is at risk of becoming a ‘non-region’ as membership continues to dwindle. If action isn’t taken very soon, it also risks a debt to National that will spiral downwards with every passing month.
ADELAIDE: Actions taken in the latter part of the year to reduce expenditure were too late to have a significant effect on the operating loss for the year.
BRISBANE: In their eagerness to connect new members Brisbane Regional Committee acted prematurely which resulted in a substantial loss of funds and turned what would have been a profit for the year into a loss.
HUNTER: The only region to record a profit for the year. It was also the only region to have recorded no membership loss as every member who left during the year had been subsequently replaced by a new member.
ICR: While it doesn’t feature in the financial records, ICR has suffered a small membership loss. One of the biggest problems it faces is that it still remains without a Regional Co-ordinator or MC representative.
MELBOURNE: The move out of Ross House and reorganisation of the setup for Melbourne has conserved all remaining funds and with no anticipated expenditure in the coming year is expected to be profitable next year provided it can retain sufficient members to form a region.
NORTHERN WOLLONGONG: The region ceased operation in September last year when vital equipment failed and it was unable to be repaired. The financial records for the region were finalised on June 30 when all outstanding debts were settled.
PERTH: For the second year in succession, Perth Region almost halved its membership and despite having reduced its expenditure considerably, looks unlikely to be able to pay off its debt to National within the next 12 months.
SYDNEY: The delay incurred in vacating their leased premises was a serious setback to Sydney Region’s financial situation. Having previously paid off almost half of its original debt to National in the previous 3 years, it lost 2 years of those repayments in a matter of months due to that delay.
In summary, this has been one of the most frustrating years I’ve spent as Treasurer. While most regions are now set to balance their budgets in the next financial year, any unforeseen events or mismanagement could easily and more than likely throw any or all region’s finances into chaos. How those events are handled will not only determine the fate of that particular region but ultimately APANA’s fate as well. It is therefore imperative that everyone who values their APANA membership puts some time into ensuring its future over the next 12 months.
I joined APANA back in 1995. At that time, my main reason for joining was that I had decided that I needed an email address of my own rather than relying on my dad's university account that I had been using for the previous year or so (although I later discovered a very early incarnation of HoTMaiL, well before it was taken over by Microsoft, which I could have used).
I chose APANA out of a listing of about half a dozen Internet providers from a feature in the Computing section of Tuesday's West Australian. One of the features of APANA that they reported was that you could dial up for free for half an hour as a trial! Needless to say this rotary was very congested, and the free trial was soon discontinued. But in the meantime, I had been attracted by APANA's low prices and I signed up.
I joined at first as an associate member, which only gave me shell access to the server rather than SLIP/PPP (upgrading to full membership when I joined the RC). The service was of variable quality. The uplink to WA's machine odyssey was only a 14.4k modem, and I received a few complaints by visitors to my first Web site that loading it was like sucking porridge through a straw. Making it worse was the fact that odyssey hosted a very popular page of sex links, for a while!
It has gone down in history that the WA regional committee at the time that I joined were dishonest in their dealings. They concealed the fact that their upstream Internet Service Provider was operated by themselves. There was also a dispute over the ownership of the region's equipment. The true facts only came to light progressively after Dean and I ascended to the Region Co-ordinator and Vice-Co-ordinator positions respectively in 1996.
Later that year, Dean became Secretary of APANA which required me to become Region Co-ordinator. This was my introduction to the Management Committee, as Perth's MC representative. When Dean later took the office of President, there was a vacancy for Secretary and I offered to assume that position. Dean had been a very merticulous secretary, and it was therefore not difficult for me to take over his role.
During my time as Secretary, which I have enjoyed very much, I have endeavoured to carry on my predecessors' good work. Since I took office I have attended all of the Annual General Meetings and prepared and lodged the reports for those meetings. I have rationalised and revamped APANA's Web site. It has saddened me to see APANA's decline, and I have offered a few suggestions to redress that decline, but none of those have seen fruition.
Since the last annual report, APANA's membership has declined from 401 to 277. I agree with Dean that APANA's priority for now should be to service those existing members as best we can while the association remains viable. It may be that APANA will eventually have to close, but it need not “crash and burn”. I hope that it will dwindle away peacefully and leave us all with good memories.
SOUTH AUSTRALIA REGIONAL REPORT:
Wireless – Air Stream
South Australia formed a relation ship with Air Stream a local Wireless network association and installed a POP on Elizabeth house to interconnect the two organisations.
For a period of time the Internode link was unstable, due to other issues with the firewall the source of the problem took a while to isolate. No further issue with the link have been reported.
Nagios system monitoring has been implemented on the hub computers, this has proved valuable in diagnosing issues as they happen
The National DNS server was installed into the regions hub site.
The Help desk operated again this year and although there will be a shortage of members, who feel they can support the desk it worked well.
Several possibly lost members rejoined due to contact by the helpdesk operator when there membership expired.
In response to the move towards ADSL and other “Broadband” services along with the addition to the membership attrition dissection has been initiated with Internode to resell ADSL services. This service can be on sold by all regions based on Internode ADSL availability. The implementation is currently waiting on the finalisation of the paperwork as approved by the Management Committee.
Regular technical training nights were planned along with the regular social gathering, however they did not attract attendance.
Dorian Barnett a strong supporter and worker for APANA SA passed on this year,
Dorian was a friend and his presence is missed.
Maxine Komlos a respected member with an interesting sense of humour.
Voice over IP service was set up on the hub machines, however at this stage general usage has not been high.
HUNTER REGIONAL REPORT:
Despite an attempt at advertising in community newspapers, very few new members have been gained by that method. Hunter Apana member and National Treasurer) Caroline Baird has been instrumental in gaining new members by fixing (where possible) PCS and otherwise being very helpful to new members. There are also plans to produce a "membership CD" for the use of new members, with config information and useful programs on. Membership levels
remain steady, and are currently at about 43.
New Rates were set early in 2005, and are currently at:
Dialups $10 / month
Web Hosting / Mail / News Only $4 / month
Existing Permanent Connections $19.75 / month
New Permanent Connections $29.50 / month
+$55 connection fee
Super - Leech $67.50 / month
Double mailing Connection $10 / month
CHANGES IN SERVICES
NETCENTRAL was dropped for ADSL and replaced with SIS GROUP, which was cheaper and also did sub-routing.
A Web Page redesign has been implemented for manually created pages. The redesign is CSS based and is intended to make most pages easier to read and navigate, including better access for disabled users. It is expected that PHP generated pages will also be changed to match, with plans for a Sys Admin Web Page with dynamically updated info.
ONGOING & INTERMITTANT PROBLEMS
Modems give periodical dial-up problems, but are replaced when needed. Bombadil has become erratic and will be scheduled to be replaced soon.
There have been SPAM e-mail attacks , and AOL was refusing mail briefly. Sybas got trojanized but was later fixed, after the firewall was toughened.
Hunter Apana, although a small region, has managed to retain stability in membership numbers, replace equipment, generally improve the service to members, and still (mostly) stay out of the red (helps having the Treasurer here)!
BRISBANE REGIONAL REPORT:
Brisbane has had a bad year membership-wise, having lost quite a few members. Despite ECN looking at prices again for us, we still cannot compete with commercial ISP's who offer everything but the kitchen sink 'free' so those members who went to ADSL have not taken up APANA's.
Technically we have had a pretty good year with little outages or problems.
Unfortunately we have lost Gary Richardson from support who was a big asset to us. Evidently his interests have changed and he says he's rarely on the computer these days. As a result we will be hard pressed to find a committee this year when we have our AGM. With all of us being so busy at the moment, this has not been organised yet but is on the 'to do' list. We have had no interest from our members to join the committee so this will have to be a matter of priority for us.
I feel our dialup pricing is very competitive with other ISP's. Talk has taken place to move away from dialups but these are our bread and butter at the moment. It doesn't suit everyone to move to ADSL, especially if you are not a big user.
Currently our webpage is down which is a big nuisance. Gary did have it on his machine but he was having problems with his machine keeping rebooting itself so he's taken it down. Doug now has the bits and pieces necessary to rebuild Goblin which he hopes to get up as soon as possible depending on his time availability. This machine originally hosted our website until it crashed some time ago.
Brisbane's finances are currently very low and I need to do some fee chasing, which I will do when I get the database disk within the next couple of days.
Today a group of us are attending the funeral of Elizabeth Sharpe's husband who died at the end of last week from cancer. Elizabeth is on our support committee.
SYDNEY REGIONAL REPORT:
This year we made a major change away from rented premises with connection provided by the ISP SiS group with the radius verification being provided by Goliath located at Craig Dewick's place.
This is for a 56k dialup. Sydney has seen David Fisher connect to SiS via ADSL under the Sydney region umbrella, but we have had difficulty expanding out the connection to other members, as SiS have been resistant to charging a single fee on behalf of APANA Sydney. We have recently decided to live with the fact that we would be charging Sydney members a separate "IP" fee, and plan to progress.
There have been some connection hiccups as we become used to the new situation, but anticipate that as will all things it will be become easier with time.
We have relative financial stablity with little in the way of fixed outgoings. Craig Dewick continues to provide a dialup service at Jedi, David Fisher's site maintains web pages for a few groups. We look forward to offering ASDL connections and expanding our membership options, and clawing away at our debt to APANA Australia.
MELBOURNE REGIONAL REPORT:
APANA Melbourne have switched from an uncompetitive "high fees, high costs" model to a "low fees, zero cost" model. This involved the non-trivial task of shutting down our hub, moving out of Ross House, and migrating several sites to fixed IP services through isp.net.au.
Switching to this new model was a very difficult decision to make. We were forced to make the change due to increasing rates, increasing competition from ADSL, and decreasing membership. The end result is a steady increase in the lack of interest in the region. We no longer have a central location to meet at or experiment with Internet hardware. These services weren't used frequently anymore when they were available, because good alternatives (such as ADSL) now exist.
APANA Melbourne is currently a DNS service and a web service. We also provide IP addresses to several members.
APANA Melbourne has a number of class C IPv4 addresses, this is perhaps the biggest asset we have, in a time when IPv4 addresses are scarce. We have approx. 18 members. We also have a number of boxes of hardware that we no longer use since the HUB closed down, and plan to sell them.
Considering the region now has zero costs, it should be able to last in its current state indefinitely.