Australian Public Access Network Association Incorporated
ARBN 081 355 722

ś1998AnnualReportť

President’s Report:

Mark Purcell

It has been an interesting 12 months for APANA. At the start of this period, APANA was "bleeding at the edges". We had lost about 25% of our membership in the previous year.

This situation has now stabilised, with our current total membership being up by 5 members on that at the last AGM.

It is worth noting that this turn around of fortunes is due mostly to large growth in smaller regions, and the addition of some new regions.

Large regions are still suffering from declining membership. It's almost as if there is a limit of around 200 members on the size of a region. Certainly all of the large regions appear to have problems sustaining membership levels in excess of 200 members.

On the other end of the spectrum, the Perth region has seen phenomenal growth, due mostly to the efforts of their RC and an aggressive advertising campaign.

Other growth for APANA has been through the addition of two new regions, Northern Wollongong and Hunter.

There have been a couple of "flame-fests" over the past year, and it should be made clear that the MC refuses to become involved in these.

Finally, in spite of the apparent stability in the overall level of membership, the large regions (Melbourne, Sydney and ACT) still have a very real problem with declining membership, and this must be addressed by their respective Regional Committees.

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Secretary’s Report:

Garry Ford

The last twelve months have been rather interesting times for APANA.The highlights of the year were the establishment of two new regions – Hunter and Northern Wollongong and gaining an ARBN, this being obtained in December.Now APANA is a legal entity in all states and territories within the Commonwealth of Australia.It stills remains incorporated in the State of Victoria.

Membership:

Region
1997
1998
Change
Percentage of membership
ACT
192
164
-28
16.82%
Brisbane
54
66
+12
6.77%
Hobart*
3
-
-3
0.00%
Hunter#
-
25
+25
2.56%
Melbourne
273
235
-38
24.10%
Northern Wollongong^
-
10
+10
1.03%
Perth
71
163
+92
16.72%
South Australia
119
135
+16
13.85%
Sydney
258
177
-81
18.15%
TOTAL
970
975
+5
100.00%
* The Hobart region was formally abolished at the MC meeting 21 Oct. 1997. Its 
remaining members were incorporated into the Melbourne Region.

# The Hunter Region was formally established at the MC meeting 19 August 1997.

^ The Northern Wollongong Region was formally established at the MC meeting

on 21 July 1998.

Cairns and Northern Territory regions have been removed from reporting records

from 21 October 1997 as they have not been active for some years.

In addition there are a total of 5 memberships pending – 2 in the ACT and 3 in Melbourne. This category of membership has been abolished and will not appear in future reports.

Large membership losses have again occurred in Sydney, Melbourne and the ACT. The membership loss can be directly attributed to large public access sites leaving APANA and taking most of the members using the sites with them in many cases.

Fortunately the trend of APANA members migrating to cheap isps appears to have reversed as many cheap providers go out of business through an inability to pay for their connections. We can only watch events unfold with interest.

Membership losses were more than compensated for by the smaller regions which all showed excellent growth figures.A special commendation must go to the Perth/Western Australia Region who more than doubled their membership to make them the fourth largest region.

In addition, many organisations are now turning to APANA for cheap, reliable Internet access that they cannot easily obtain from commercial isps.This is opening up a new market for membership in all regions.Development of this market is to be encouraged as it represents a steady cash flow to the regions.

New Regions:

Special mention must be made of our two new regions for the year – Hunter and Northern Wollongong.While Hunter was already established as a hub before affiliating with APANA, Northern Wollongong is commencing from scratch.We wish both these new regions continued success and hope that next year they will post equally as impressive membership figures as Perth.

Fees:

As foreshadowed last year, changes in isp bulk rates and ability to supply a service at the level we require has resulted in some regions changing their isp and reviewing their fee structure.It is hoped the fee structure can remain stable for at least the next twelve months.

Membership Database:

The membership database is giving us problems from time to time. Last Christmas Eve it went into a continuos loop with an all members mail-out and again recently with the preliminary AGM mail-out. While not directly the fault of the database, we think (we hope) this mail-out problem has now been solved thanks to Chris Cogdon.

Apologies again to those members inconvenienced by receiving sometimes hundreds of copies of the one email.

A further problem arose recently when the database went ballistic.Thanks to Scott Neville and Chris Cogdon for eventually pulling it back into line.

Mid year the Management Committee purchase a new machine to house the DNS and the Database.Since then, apart from a few teething problems, all seems to be going well and DNS updates are now being dealt with relatively efficiently by Scott Neville.Thanks Scott.To improve this efficiency even further an automated DNS procedure is under consideration and it is planned to detail its operation at the AGM for immediate implementation.

Official Documents:

Regions are advised to ensure they only have the latest versions of official documents on-line. Apart from the inconvenience and confusion this causes to members, there are also serious legal ramifications. It is best if they link directly to the national APANA pages rather than mirror them locally.

All agendas and minutes of meetings should be posted as soon as they are approved to relevant pages on the web.As an interim they can be posted to the relevant newsgroup in the region.Some regions failures to do this in a timely manner has generated many complaints over the past twelve months.Because of the nature of APANA the minutes are the only way many members keep up with what is happening.We must all ensure we do not deny them this opportunity through late posting of minutes.

Regional Committees are also reminded of the importance of keeping accurate records of loans and donations of equipment.

As part of ensuring that APANA is operating within the law in all the Australian jurisdictions, the obtaining of an Australian Registered Body Number was undertaken.This number ¾ 081 355 722 ¾ must now appear on all official documents/publications of APANA, including home pages.

Finally, I must remind regions regarding the need for certain correspondence to be handled at a national level.The secretary does not wish to increase his work load nor does he wish to take away from regions the right to conduct their own affairs.However, certain correspondence that relates to APANA as a whole rather than a specific region only, is best handled by the MC/Secretary rather than some one in a region.

Newsgroups:

This was another area to generate a great deal of correspondence during the year and one very fiery management meeting.

Would all site operators please note that ALL APANA newsgroups are private newsgroups and as such are not available for distribution to non-APANA sites/members unless prior approval of the Management Committee has been given.Any such external sites must guarantee not to pass on APANA newsgroups to the outside world.

All members please note.To avoid APANA newsgroups leaking it is essential that you do not cross-post APANA newsgroups with other newsgroups.Cross posting seems to be the way many non-members have found out about our newsgroups.

While all this may seem draconian to some members, it is essential if we are to:

(a)retain APANA newsgroups as places we can all, as members, freely exchange ideas andthoughts without fear of outsiders seeing what we say and therefore free of certain legal implications.

(b)Avoid receiving tons of SPAM in our newsgroups, something that happens every now and then only at present.

Censorship:

The view taken by the Management Committee is that anything can be posted by members providing it doesn’t bring the good name of APANA into disrepute or is in breach of the laws of Australia and its states and territories.

It is not the policy of the Management Committee or anyone else in APANA to censor what is published on the Internet by APANA members and through APANA sites providing:

(a)APANA has not been instructed by the relevant government authorities that such and such a posting is illegal.

(b)The material posted is not in breach of our Acceptable User Policy and/or Terms and Conditions of Connection.

(c)The material is not in breach of copyright.

Hand in hand with censorship must go language used.Again, what language a person uses on the Internet is dictated by the circumstances: the Management Committee has no intention of being involved in drawing up a list of proscribed words or the like.All it asks of members is that they think carefully about what they write, particularly in newsgroups, and avoid answering in the heat of the moment. If everyone is just that little more carefully (we all offend at times) they perhaps some of those rather personal flame wars that marred the year will be avoided in future. It is far easier to say something on the net you will later regret, than it is in person.

Sometimes the harm done to your own reputation and even APANA’s as well, can be quite enormous, from a few words badly chosen in haste.

As all APANA members are responsible people it is hoped the Management Committee will never have to take action against a member under Rule 10 because of material that member has posted.

The Future:

As we approach the second last year of the millenium APANA is at the crossroads.

Internet use is exploding and even small country western towns now have isps.Although we are still basically a hobby group in that we experiment, give our services voluntarily to APANA, and don’t expect the same standards of service as we would receive from a commercial isp, we still must be professional in our outlook and attitudes at all times.

If APANA is to retain members and grow we must show our professionalism proudly.We must:

(a)ensure members receive the highest possible service at all times.

(b)keep our equipment in A1 reliable condition to minimise downtimes.

(c)recover from downtimes and system failures as quickly as possible.

(d)respond quickly and courteously to all members’ inquiries and problems.

Although we are not a commercial isp, we should try to match their service standards as closely as possible.All the officers, committee members and other key personal may be volunteers, but we are still all stakeholders in a quite large corporation, and we should endeavour to give our best at all times.

At times in the past twelve months service to our client members has not been as good as it should be.Before taking on a position of responsibility in APANA a person should ensure they have the time available to devote to that position, AND be willing to devote the time required.Unless this philosophy is applied APANA will soon whither and die as members turn to commercial isps who do provide the service standards they have come to expect.

APANA has a chance to expand in the organisational market place.This means more regions will be able to afford ISDN lines or upgrade to larger pipes.Unless we do this we will not be able to accommodate new technologies as they are released as we will not be able to provide connections of the required speed and bandwidth.The result will be a dramatic drop in membership and the eventual dissolution of APANA.It is all our interests to keep our membership up and to expand it into more remunerative fields.This will only happen if we provide the highest quality service possible with our volunteer labour.

As a further inducement to membership perhaps regions could enhance their regional meetings and engage in more social activities of various types which could include guest speakers or workshops on various aspects of the computing industry.

Finally, I would like to thank those members who have given me assistance in the time I have been your Secretary, especially Mirko Fluher without whom my job would be much more difficult, if not impossible to perform.

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Treasurer’s Report:

John Childs

Please see separate documents appended.

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Regional Reports:

Australian Capital Territory

Paul McConnell

The ACT Region of APANA continues to provide excellent facilities to it's local members.The 128 kb/s Internet feed has proven itself as an essential regional facility.This link feeds 9 APANA sites including a second hub. The second hub itself feeds multiple, non-PAS, permanently connected members.Through careful planning of bandwidth feeds, the 128 kb/s link never experiences congestion, providing the ACT region with a consistent and stable link to the rest of the world.

The region was saddened last year with the sudden death of Chris Rogers, the owner and administrator of the ROSELLA public access site.As always the core members of the region pulled together, this time to support Chris' widow, Beth, during the Christmas and New Year period.Working with Beth, the ROSELLA site was transferred early in 1998 to another ACT member who has continued to provide the same excellent service that ROSELLA members had become accustom.

For the first time since it's conception, the ACT region has had to respond to decreasing membership.This has not come as a surprise to the region given the more competitive Internet connection that are now on offer from commercial ISPs. Even though APANA remains more than an ISP and offers the best value in town for Internet access we, as a region, have had to face the reality of a 15% membership drop.To compensate for this the region has recently embarked on an advertising campaign to raise awareness of what APANA is and what we offer our members.We are optimistic that this will increase membership to between 200 and 220 members - a figure that the ACT Regional Committee has agreed is optimal for our current infrastructure.

Brisbane

Gary Richardson

Brisbane Region is currently functioning on a skeleton Committee with the Resignation of its Regional Co-ordinator (RC).

Brisbane hub was previously located at the residential premises of the RC.One of the conditions directed to BRC was to find an "alternative" location.BRC agreed to co-locating with Brisbane Internet Technology (BIT).

Co-Location with BIT resulting in our region having to pay for the installation/relocation of 28 lines. 20 of these were purchased from BIT (via Telstra) at a cost of $1,000 the remaining 8 having to be charged at $173 for the first line and approx $150.00 for the remaining 7). Total cost, phone lines only, being approx $2,300

BIT will be invoicing APANA $200.00 per month, this consists of $85.00 per month for our News Feed and $115 per month co-location cost.Cabling at the new premises cost APANA approximately $45.

BRC also took this opportunity to upgrade our MODEM on our main link into Telstra Big Pond Direct to 56kbps ready for Big Pond Directs upgrade of all their MODEM expected within the next two months.The MODEM was provided at cost to APANA by Brisbane

Internet Technology.

We are currently in the process of installing a third server, moving our web cache functions from our main server to a separate machine.A few other service may also be moved.This will be at the discretion of our Systems Administrator.

Membership figures remain steady and is sufficient to meet our current needs.

Brisbane Regional Committee will be calling for the election of a new committee by the end of July.This period providing time for the current committee to tie up a few loose ends consisting of : 

Insurance of equipment, 

update of Assets Register, and

correction of long outstanding discrepancies on our Telstra Bill.

Hunter

Matt McLeod

In August 1997, the Hunter Network Association (HNA), which split from APANA in late 1993, re-joined APANA to become the Hunter Region of APANA.

We are a small Region (indeed, the smallest until Northern Wollongong was formed), but very stable.

The Region is currently in the process of relocating it's hub and expanding it's dialup capacity, which will enable us to grow significantly in the coming months.

Melbourne

George Hansper

August 1997 ... August 1998, As seen by the Melbourne Region

The last year has been quite busy for the Melbourne Region.

We began by completing the transition from Connect.com to Telstra Big Pond in August 1997. This move was motivated by the 64k flat-rate connection being offered by Telstra,

which other providers are unable to match.

The move from a volume-based to flat-rate upstream link had the added side-effect that we could officially take volume charging off the agenda.

Although we had resolved to charge volume-fees in 1997, this was never actually implemented, mostly due to the difficulties in integrating this fee

structure into our current administrative practices.

1998 saw another review of our fees and fee structure, and this is more than likely to become an annual event.It is only realistic to expect some shift is costs over the

course of a year, and it is important that we keep an eye on such things.

The new fee structure for 1998 was actually very similar to our previous ones, with a few small changes:

·IP-fees are now flat rate, and only slightly higher than the 1997.

·The IP-connection fee has been abandoned completely (!) with a view to encouraging more members to connect to the hub.

·IP-fees used to be charged on the anniversary (or 6-monthly) from when the member first connected. They are now charged on fixed dates: 14th January and 14th July.

·The phone-line at the hub used to be the member's responsibility.This will now be arranged by the Melbourne Region.This was done with a view to reducing the total cost of connecting new members to the hub.This required transferring all hub-lines into APANA's name.This goal was realised for as most of the hub's phone lines in March of 1998.

The Melbourne Region has been made an "offer too good to refuse" by Planet Internet, as long ago as mid-1997.However, we have not yet implemented the technical aspects of

our link to Planet Internet.The reasons behind this are complex, but seem to stem from 

one common factor: poor transfer of knowledge.In the past, there has always been a small group of highly skilled people looking after various aspects of the region.This becomes a problem only one person is involved in a key area (e.g. management of the Annex, database, etc).If such a person then loses interest in their role, it becomes impossible to replace them without going through a traumatic period of adjustment, while someone else is "learning the ropes".

Although we missed out on our usual December BBQ in 1997, we made up for it in 1998 with barbecue in March.This was well attended by the members, and was a resounding success all round. Hopefully, there will be many more such events to come.

The first half of 1998 has been rife with equipment failures.

We had a motherboard fail on hock, and later the hock suffered a disk-failure on it's root-filesystem.In both cases, the failure was preceded by unreliable service. Hock is our mail web-proxy and news-server, so failures were anything but "minor".Hopefully, we've had our share of these now, and we won't see any more for quite some time.

After having had some concerns about the (physical) security of our equipment, we managed to have our equipment moved to a room of it's own in Ross house.This was realised in March 1998, and the move went quite smoothly, with only minimal disruption to members.

All in all, after a slow start in the 2nd half of 1997, things are beginning tomove along smoothly again.We've seen a few new Public Access sites emerge, and several new people come forward to assist at the regional level.The main challenge for the coming year will be to improve our network performance.

We are looking forward to a bigger and better things in the year to come.

Northern Wollongong

Joel Moir

The Northern Wollongong region has only been just formed, and has not therefore an official committee yet.Our first Annual General Meeting is to be held on the 12th July, where the committee will be elected.The forming members have much vision for this region, and are very enthusiastic about its success as an APANA region for many years to come.

Currently there are around 12 members, and there are many more showing interest in the local area.A publicity campaign has begun with all members letting people know by word of mouth, brochures have been distributed around the local towns, adds placed in community papers and on notice boards, and even a newspaper article will shortly be published.We are positive that there will be a healthy membership of at least 50 people within a month or so of the region forming.

As to the financial plan so far, nothing has officially been set yet, as the membership base needed to make the network viable has not yet been reached.It will start out as a 33k6 permanent modem connection to a Wollongong ISP 'Rainbow.net', who have been extremely nice and helpful with our initial inquires, so much so that they took nearly $1000 off the yearly fee when they heard our cause!

Our initial setup would be something like the following:

2 Pentiums running Free-BSD or Linux; Cyclades 8-Yo; A dedicated 33k6 modem to Rainbow.net; a dialup ratio of around 10:1 (around 5 dial-ups to begin with).

Financially, this is approximately the cost of the above setup:

First year:

Rainbow.net Charges - Install$0

Annual access$2775

SUB-TOTAL$2775

Telstra Charges50 pair install,

line connection$820

Monthly Fee's$864

SUB-TOTAL$4459

Hardware Costs -2 x Servers with

network card$2000

Modem purchase$1000

SUB-TOTAL$7459

TOTAL$7459

Second Year:

The cost in the second year drops down to $3639 due to the initial hardware purchase and installation costs incurred during the first year.

So in summary of the financial situation:

Year A - $7500

Year B - $3650

All members of this region so far think that this is a fair analysis of costs and are willing to contribute fairly to the setup and ongoing costs of APANA in this region.ISP costs are based on the best deal that was offered from numerous local-call ISP's, including the larger one's such as Telstra Bigpond, Telstra Direct, Ozemail, One.net etc.Rainbow.net was substantially lower and offers better support as well, as they have competent staff, and have a corporate goal of helping organizations such as APANA (not-for-profit).

We still hope to have in the near future ISDN access to the net, and I think that this will be quite achievable if membership numbers increase to 80 or above.As the town of Helensburgh is quite close-knit, we think that there would be huge interest in APANA if it's presence and aims were known.Helensburgh is, as far as we can see, under the 24km boundary from Campbelltown, which would mean a substantially lower cost of ISDN access than if it were run from Wollongong City or Sydney.Also, ozemail has been quite keen to maintain our interest in ISDN access to them, offering good pricing and much more support than they need give.

Also on our goal list is to approach local government MP's to see if they would consider putting some capital and maybe some ongoing financial assistance for Northern Wollongong region of APANA to improve the quality of this community service.If this were a possibility and if it went ahead, then these funds would go towards the lowering of the cost for each member, and towards the improvement of the service that APANA offers.

All in all I think that the Northern Wollongong region has a good future ahead of it, this being based on the current membership’s general enthusiasm.

Perth/Western Australia

Dean Hollister

The 1997/1998 year started with a large cloud of uncertainty for the region.In June & July, some members were becoming very wary of our service provider of the time, Southern Access Communications Pty Ltd (SAC). We were later to discover that a former Region Co-ordinator and Deputy had not disclosed their financial interest in SAC.

The RC approached the MC for advice on what course of action to take.Under the MC's direction, we served notice on SAC to sever the relationship.

Our approach to the MC also requested an advance of $2000, to facilitate relocation of odyssey, purchase of new equipment, and connection of new telephone services. A new odyssey was ordered, along with modems and other hardware.Our thanks to the MC for its support in what were very difficult and trying times.

In August, the situation took a severe turn for the worst, with SAC attempting to seize odyssey, claiming ownership of the machine.The region disputed this claim.This, coupled with Ken McKay no longer being in a position to co-locate odyssey, resulted in the region going off-line.Our sincere thanks to Ken McKay for his dedication and assistance.

The RC hurriedly commenced negotiations with other ISPs in Perth, and finally settled down with iiNet Technologies.Services were ordered from Telstra for installation of phone lines and ISDN to accommodate the new hub.

During this transition period, the RC, under the MC's assistance, commenced legal action against SAC to recover monies owed to APANA.Whilst this action was successful in obtaining a favourable judgement, it was unsuccessful in actually recovering any monies. The positive outcome of our action saw the eventual demise of SAC with the Australian Securities Commission commencing deregistration proceedings.

To our delight, Telstra completed installation of new lines in October, and the new service was launched at the beginning of the month.The new link to iiNet was initially 28.8k via modem.

The link raced up to 64k ISDN in December, with the purchase of a Cisco Router, much to the satisfaction of the Members. Speed improvements were noticeable immediately, and praise all round to the RC for its hard work.

January saw the commencement of advertising in the West Australian newspaper.This was beyond doubt the turning point for the region.Our Membership rose dramatically, and returned the region back into the warm and caring arms of financial viability.

This period also saw Steve Lockhart's donation to the region of a 9 port ethernet hub and the installation of lwl, APANA's own Speak Freely Server.

For commercial reasons, iiNet was unable to continue providing our 64k link. The RC accordingly made arrangements with Telstra for a new 64k link. This was commissioned in April, with news being moved off our main link onto a new 28.8k link to Ozemail Pty Ltd.

Odyssey's home pages have undergone a massive overhaul and update.This overhaul also saw the launch of a new and valuable "Members-Only Area".Special thanks to Paul Connolly and Ian Darby for their efforts.

In closing, 1998 has seen the region progress very nicely indeed.A credit to the many Members who have contributed to what has become a wonderful experience.

South Australia

Steve Fraser

In some ways it is reassuring to report that not much has changed here in the last year.In last year's report, I suggested that extensive growth as NOT one of our goals - our membership was at a comfortable level and better service to our members seemed more relevant.This has 

been the theme for the last year, and one which most members seem to be comfortable with.We've invested significantly in upgrading our hub equipment and new lines and have generally had a pretty reliable service to our members.Our news feed has probably been the one unsatisfactory area, with an unreliable connection causing havoc with a connection that is very heavily loaded even at the best of times.

We have had a number of new members over the year, despite no activities aimed at advertising - I guess word of mouth is pretty effective!Of course, we have lost some members too - there will always be some attrition rate.But, overall, our membership is at around the level we aim at.And matching that, our finances are in pretty good shape too, at around $13,000, which is up about $2500 from last year.

Two seemingly never-ending problems are "spam" and "hackers".We, like many others, have had our fair share of this - the only cure seems to be to remain vigilant and ensure that we put in place all of the relevant safeguards. This type of thing is particularly annoying for volunteer organisations, because it means unexpected and urgent demands can be made on our team at ANY time, through no fault of our own. 

Which leads me on to the "thankyous". There are, as usual, far too many people to name individually.However, the tech group, the "admin dudes" (who look after new members), the RC and various special role holders have all done an excellent job.We re-arranged the tasks and about twelve months ago - it was much more difficult than we expected, and reinforces the danger of becoming too reliant on one or two individuals!However,

we have emerged with a broader, balanced set of skills across a somewhat larger team, which must equip us well for the future. 

To all of those people, I'd like to express a sincere and heartfelt "thankyou" for your efforts.

Finally, we have many plans for the future, with more and better facilities.I have been in the Regional Coordinator's role for two and a half years now, and feel it is time for some "new blood".I do not intend to stand for that position at our forthcoming regional meeting, although I shall stand for a position on the RC.To all of the people who have helped me 

over this period, I'd like to extend my thanks and appreciation - you have made my job very easy!

Sydney

Rebecca Richards

The Sydney Region has had a fairly stable period since the last AGM.

The major event of the year has been our move from Pitt Street in Sydney to premises in Petersham.Unfortunately the Pitt Street building's owners decided to renovate the building and forced all of the tenants (including us) to vacate.The move forced Sydney to be disconnected for a week because Telstra did not install the ISDN and PSTN lines into the Petersham premises before the move, as ordered.

We have been experiencing an expansion of our hub due to more members asking for Permasite connections.Sydney has instituted a policy of owning the PSTN lines, instead of the previous policy of having each member individually arrange for connection and disconnection of lines, and paying for rental.The benefit is that there is more flexibility for the region, and that the line can be reused immediately if someone disconnects.

There have been a few administrative problems, but all members connecting to the Permasite lines are now being billed.

We are currently concentrating on moving across to Telstra Big Pond, so that our internet connection fees are capped and predicable.

Our user base has been decreasing throughout the year.However, we have noticed that there is an increase in organisational membership.The biggest organisation to connect has been the Redfern Legal Centre.We are getting expressions of interest from other community legal organisations, due to word of mouth from Redfern and other members.

Our Volunteer base has also increased, with several members volunteering to assist with Hub Administration, membership queries, connecting equipment and assisting the administrators.There seems to be a genuine interest by the members in the Region's connectivity and viability.

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