2006 was a year of growth for the National Capital FreeNet. Upgraded systems, improved email, spam filtration, high speed services and perhaps the high point of the year, our opening of an office in a landmark building in Ottawa's westboro neighbourhood.
This is the first time that the National Capital FreeNet has a location with easy public access and enough space to house the entire team and signage that is visable from the street. It also marks a renewed sense of self confidence in the organisation and its goals of being a true alternative to the commercial internet service providers.
In 2006, finances continue to be a challenge for the NCF. Members donations continue to provide the lions share of the funds required to run the NCF. The finances were strengthened slightly from the growing numbers of members using our high speed services. Telecom costs were level for the year although expenses for salaries were up with the addition of Daniel as a DSL technician. A number of individuals continue to volunteer their time allowing the NCF to stay on an even keel financially. Technical service charges for backup and support we reduced as we brought though services in-house. Insurance and banking fees continue to be a bugbear for the NCF. Insurance continues to be expensive although it did not increase during the year. Efforts were started late in 2006 to lower the bank fees that the NCF pays. I was pleased to see that more members are contributing to the operations of the NCF. The NCF received no government funding during 2006 and none is expected in 2007. We will continue to rely on member donations and the small margin associated with the DSL service to meet our expenses.
I am happy to report that for the third year in a row the National Capital FreeNet made significant technical progress in 2006. The largest success has been the improvements in the email service, anti-virus and in spam filtration. Improvements to the server hardware (higher speed processors and memory) will result in a more reliable and scalable service. The development team also added secure login and secure email to the NCF attributes. Many thanks to Entrust for the donation of security certificates. Also many thanks to the local technology company TalkSwitch for the donation of phones and their top of the line TalkSwitch. This is a critical piece of equipment for the operation of our office.
Internet access for NCF members took a big step forward in 2006 with improvements to the high speed service (DSL). We now support up to 5.0 mbps and "dry DSL" services. DSL support continues to improve.
The office functions were also incrementally improved in 2006 with the additional volunteer support tools and an improved office environment. Together these functions have helped the NCF's volunteers to improve the quality and timeliness of their support to members. With the move from Carleton to our Trailhead office we are now needing to rebuild our volunteer base. This will be a major effort in early 2007.
The NCF received very positive media coverage during 2006 with articles in the Ottawa Citizen and Monitor Magazine as well as interviews with the CBC. The NCF distributed posters and bookmarks to the public libraries.
In spite of all of the improvements, the NCF still faces significant challenges. The NCF needs to continue to upgrade its technical infrastructure. Many of the NCF servers are nearing the end of the planned lifespans and in the years ahead will need to be repaired or replaced. Volunteers are needed to help extend the current support team and finally the biggest challenge, to get the word out the the NCF is a great alternative to commercial internet providers.
I hope that 2007 will be another positive year for the NCF as it helps to bring the benefits of the internet to more local residents.
National Capital FreeNet