National Capital FreeNet / Libertel de la Capitale nationale

Graeme Beckett - Candidate

What skills will you contribute to the NCF Board?

So far I've been contributing as an NCF board member for 18 years! I've served on number of committees, overseen nine different Executive Directors and been a former President of the National Capital FreeNet! I'm currently acting as Secretary of the Board.

I'm the longest serving board member with considerable background knowledge of the organization's financial and contractual considerations and of the various activities the NCF has been involved with. I was a member of the team that initiated our vital cost-saving direct-to-Bell DSL service. A few other example of activities of contribution or knowledge would include NCF's Remote Internet Desktop initiative, Volnet program, seniors and community training, NCF's Community Access Fund, and a number of the CRTC's internet related strategies and rulings.

During my time on the NCF board we've made huge strides in improving our services. When I first joined the Board the NCF only had dial-up service! Today we offer very reliable high speed services with speeds as fast as 50 Mb/s up with 10 Mb/s down. The National Capital FreeNet's office has seen major improvements both in location near the transit station and elevator access for the disabled and now support on weekdays until early evenings and on Saturdays! Having the free and easy parking is also big bonus versus that old Carleton University location! The move from our inadequate cramped former offices to our current larger office has provided room for better service with more volunteers, training and importantly, separate and quiet individual rooms to enable development and administration.

What are the most important functions of the NCF for its members?

That the National Capital FreeNet maintain a reliable community based means to access the Internet and provide an alternative Canadian based email service hosted on our Ottawa servers. Importantly, having a friendly local office to drop by for support, and offering conveniences such as being able to pick up a loaner modem for troubleshooting. It wouldn't be a rumour that less technically inclined members have also on occasion been welcomed by appointment to bring in their laptop when needing additional troubleshooting assistance. Offering straight-forward service offerings and reasonable pricing without reams of fine print, contracts, surprise increases or punishing overage charges! Being a non-profit, the NCF can keep costs reasonable, our members help out other members and this helps NCF provide service to those who would be unable to afford Internet service elsewhere.

Additionally the National Capital FreeNet has held a number of popular training sessions on various internet related topics, so there's still a fundamental need for new Canadians and those with limited online skills to interact and learn!

NCF's volunteers are also a major function, taking pride in being a part of the organization, helping out and contributing in many aspects, some having retired from the paid workforce sharing their skills while others are learning new skills to prepare to enter the workforce and many others in between. We've had so many terrific volunteers over the years!

Why do you want to be an NCF director?

We achieved many of my previous goals, now offering several new higher speed DSL packages and a special low cost DSL package made available specifically to assist our dial-up users to transition to DSL..That said, NCF still has some dial-up users. Though they may not be many in numbers they do have their specific reasons. I would ensure that those unable to switch to high speed due to location or for other reasons have a dial-up that remains an affordable donation based service for as long as it can reasonably be sustained.

In my next term I would continue monitoring developments at our federal CRTC on FTTP (fibre-to-the-premises). The segment of the population of National Capital Region who have or will have fibre deployed directly to their home cannot currently have service provided by NCF. When it becomes feasible I'd like to add the faster fibre-to-the-premises to NCF's suite of DSL offerings. So far rulings and developments by the CRTC regarding fiber to the premises has not been stellar and I anticipate we will see further procedural and deployment challenges and appeals. In the mean time the NCF needs to actively consider deploying other high speed alternatives such as cable based offerings.

If we can make it sustainable I'd like to see our Community Access Fund extended beyond Ottawa Community Housing to reach out to others. This fund helps provide low cost internet service. I would also like to have the popular training and informational sessions that are hosted by NCF.continue.

Ensuring we offer reliable, affordable and up to date internet access and introduce a community awareness initiative and also consider new offerings, be it higher DSL speeds, cable based internet, VOIP, wireless or IPTV. This can add key momentum to NCF's growth. As we obtain greater economies of scale we drive down our base costs and as a not-for-profit those reduced costs are passed on to our membership, not shareholders. In addition to our devoted staff, the dedicated volunteers play a big part in the success of our organization, helping out in the NCF office, online and in the community.

Graeme Beckett (aw958)