The major reason for the change was the negative connotation of the term "Free-Net". Some users are treating it as a free lunch and as you all know, there is no such animal.
It costs quite a bit to run our system. In fact it costs over $4,000 a month just to keep our heads above water. Our major expenses are our phone lines and rent. Our current income from donations is approximately $2,000 a month. When we moved our system we had 22 phone lines and donated office space, our income was sufficient to meet our expenses and we had actually built up a surplus because we were being careful with our money.
Part of the agreement that we entered into when we moved to our present location was that we would get more office space, which was badly needed, and a donation of 112K of bandwidth to the Internet, but we would have to pay for the office space. We had enough of a surplus that we were able to pay for the office space for a year in advance (and get a reduction for doing so). That year is now up and we cannot afford to pay a year in advance again, so now we are starting to have to pay by the month.
Our successful casino nights last year enabled us to increase our phone lines from 22 to 40, but that meant that our telephone expenses alone were now exceeding our income. I mentioned this fact in my Fall '95 report. We have been existing partly on our reserves, which is of course, not a good idea.
To be blunt, to maintain the Victoria Telecommunity Network, we are going to have to at least double our monthly income.
We have recently had our Annual General Meeting and elected a new Board. That new Board has accepted fundraising as one of its primary tasks and has now struck a finance committee to address the problem. (as an aside, if any of you are interested in the governance of the association which runs the network, you can become a member for $25 a year and become involved.)
We will be doing a number of things to raise money, but we need your help. We have over 16,000 registered users, if even a significant fraction of those users were to donate even $10 a month to us, the situation would be far different. Now of course not all of those people are active, some have stopped using their accounts for a variety of reasons, many because they have gone to commercial services for the more sophisticated graphic based services that we can't afford to provide. However, there are certainly plenty of people out there that use our system, our new statistics gathering routines show that the usage for March, the only month that we currently have a record for, was just under 100,000 logins! Not all of these logins came from our overworked 40 modem lines of course, we also have over 20 public terminals plus a large number of connections from the Internet itself.
We will be having our second two casino nights on May 25th and 26th, but we cannot use casino proceeds to defray operating expenses. We have a very good use for whatever proceeds we make. As many of you know, our little Sun Sparc 2 computer that has served us so well is no longer adequate to cope with the demands placed on it. We want to purchase a new larger main computer, a Sparc 20 class machine. This represents an expense of between 15 and 20 thousand dollars. We do not expect to make that much money from this round of casino nights so we will have to find the rest somewhere. We are, of course, exploring the possibility of donated or second hand equipment, but have not found anything yet.
You may be aware that that the system has not been as stable as it should be lately, we have had several crashes and problems. Usenet News has been particularly troublesome. Also, a number of you experienced the system telling you "I don't know you, go away" a few mornings ago. This unfortunate, rude message is buried somewhere in the depths of our UNIX operating system and appears every so often when a particular class of problems erupts. Quite frankly, we have yet to discover just where the message is being generated, when we do, we will change it to something more informative and friendly.
All this trouble is attributable to the fact that our system is badly overloaded. We need to make a number of changes and upgrades to improve the operation of the system. These changes will have to wait until our new system is in place.
We need your support so that we can maintain our service and continue to
grow. Our financial
report and constitution are now available on line.
Please donate generously - remember, this service does not receive government grants!
Gareth R. Shearman
Victoria Telecommunity Network
(Victoria Free-Net Association)
Return to the Victoria Telecommunity Network Homepage