NCF Executive Director’s Annual Report (for year 2002)




First let me acknowledge Ian MacEachern’s role as the previous Executive Director.  Although I am writing this report, much of the year was brought to you under his stewardship and we have much to thank him for.


Although I am relatively new to its operations, having started in mid-October, I quickly became aware of the goodwill that exists towards NCF.  I believe that in large part this goodwill exists because of the efforts of members to help others and to help make the nation’s capital a better place to live.


Significant Achievements in 2002

Enhanced Modem operations

In May, all of the modems were upgraded to 33K, the maximum possible using analog lines.  NCF now supports over 200 33K modems accessed through two pools, one at Carleton and one at Mitel (an NCF sponsor).  In addition to upgrading the modems, NCF created of a series of programs to test and monitor the modems that helps detect faults earlier.


An NCF-designed software system to improve sharing of modems during peak periods was upgraded to work with the new modem hardware and with remote sites (such as Mitel), allowing members to have unrestricted use of modems whenever there are idle modems for others.

Web mail

In July, web mail was introduced for NCF members.  Web Mail provides a significant improvement on the standard email in that it allows members to access their email from any browser, whether at home, at the office, or anywhere there is internet.

Spam Assassin

Also in July, NCF introduced Spam Assassin to help members with a scourge of the internet – unwanted email or Spam.

10th Anniversary Kickoff

The NCF’s 10th anniversary was a great success.  It was a honour to have a number of the founders of the NCF present.   Dave Sutherland, Jay Weston, and George Frajkor said a few words about their involvement and hopes for the future of FreeNet.  We were also fortunate to have Mac Harb, Alex Munter and Alex Cullen on hand as well as representatives from many of our sponsors.  Volunteers manned the tables and contributed to the success of the evening.  To cap it all off, NCF received excellent coverage by CJOH and The NewRO.


Since February 1993, the National Capital Freenet has introduced over 75,000 residents to the Internet.  Today it hosts hundreds of community organizations, and acts as one of the region’s ‘online public commons’, helping to facilitate vibrant community interactions.  NCF continues to be the Internet home to thousands of local residents.

New facilities within Carleton University

Carleton University has provided NCF with high quality space as a home for the development team.  It is expected that by mid 2003 we will be consolidating our different locations into a single office fitted out to better serve our members and volunteers.


Renewed infrastructure

After ten years, the infrastructure of NCF is getting a little creaky.  A greater and greater portion of staff and volunteer time is being wasted keeping the old system running.  Fortunately, we are able to address these problems with the help of Industry Canada’s “Smart Communities” initiative.


  1. Database

One of the biggest improvements is behind the scenes.  For the first time the NCF will have an SQL database to tie together its operations and membership.  The database is at the heart of many new services and features (such as the improved registration process) and will allow for the implementation of many new services.


  1. Modems

Maintaining multiple systems is more complex and less reliable than one built with standard components.  Digital lines are more reliable and less susceptible to noise than analog lines.  Automated systems to monitor the line quality and look for faults are more effective and less costly than manual systems.  In all of these areas, we’ve been making good progress.  We’re expecting 56K digital lines later this month (these new lines will work with any existing modems but will be more reliable, and faster for those people with 56K modems).


  1. Web site

As you’ve probably noticed, we recently changed the NCF web site to better communicate who we are, what we do, and how we are different.   Next we’ll be improving how members interact with NCF services via NCF’s “start page”.


Administration & Funding

1.      Renewals
In 2002, 4,437 members renewed their FreeNet account. Of these, 88% donated at time of renewal. This is a significant improvement on 1998 where 66.7% of renewing members donated. The average renewal donation in 2002 was $33.45; again, a marked improvement on 1998's average of $16.17.  Donations from renewals totaled $130,632 for the year.

2.      Registrations
Some 1,604 new members joined FreeNet throughout the year, averaging approximately 134 per month. Making a donation is not mandatory, and over half (53%) of our new registrants donated this year. This represented an improvement over 2001 where only 41% of our new members donated. The average donation in 2002 was $25.50. Donations from new registrations totaled $21,788 for the year.

3.      Membership Activity
Our roster of active members closed the year at 6,618, down slightly from 6,774 at the beginning of the year. With the improvements to the modem pool the membership has since started to rebound and is currently over 6,800.

4.      Homepage Data and Information Providers
NCF continues to be an important resource for individuals, not-for-profits and small businesses. At year-end, 841 or approximately 8.1% of our members had personal homepages hosted on FreeNet. Our text menu system contained some 1,025 Information Provider menus and approximately 225 organizations located webpages on our servers.

5.      Member Usage Data
FreeNet members connected to NCF approximately 3,600,000 times during the year, averaging about 69,000 sessions per week, a figure that remained fairly stable throughout the year, although lowest between September and November. Of this total, the number of text sessions represented approximately 43% of the total with PPP users representing about 57% of the number of sessions.

The number of unique users averaged 7,953 throughout the year and again, remained moderately stable with a high of 12,713 in November and a low of 7,187 in January.


2003 & Beyond

In the first half of 2003, we’re focusing on improving infrastructure and making our services more reliable.  In the second half of 2003, we’ll be focusing on using that infrastructure to better pursue NCF’s mission:  to operate internet services for the people of the national capital region, to improve ‘internet literacy’, and to help make the region a better place.


At any time, I’d appreciate your comments and suggestions.  You can reach me by phone at the NCF office (520-2600 ext 8024) and by email (


John Selwyn
Executive Director