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About GCN

The origins and operation of the Gustavus Community Network

Summary

The Gustavus Community Network is the municipal Internet Service Provider owned and operated by the city of Gustavus, Alaska. It is governed by the Gustavus City Council with advice from the GCN Committee under the terms of Chapter 6.05 of the city's municipal code and the GCN Member Policy.

As of September 1, 2008 Corvid Computing administers the community network under contract, handling all customer service, billing, and account management. Another contractor supports basic e-mail, authentication, accounting, and billing systems. Nathan Borson provides system administration, operations, and maintenance on an "if and when I feel like it" volunteer basis.

Background

Gustavus community-based networking and Internet access has evolved over time, involving a succession of organizations and service providers. The Gustavus Community Network grew out of SEAKnet, a regional collaborative effort started by an NTIA grant obtained by the Alaska State Library in 1995. After grant funding ran out Gustavus SEAKnet operated as a committee of the Gustavus Community Association, continuing to obtain its Internet services from the University of Alaska. On January 1, 2001 Gustavus SEAKnet switched service providers and renamed itself the Gustavus Community Network. Gustavus incorporated as a second-class city in April, 2004 and the Gustavus Community Association disbanded at the end of that year. Left with no parent organization, GCN re-constituted itself as a municipal utility owned and operated by the City of Gustavus.

For more about the mission and goals of GCN, see the Internet Access Discussion that took place before the transition from Gustavus SEAKnet to the Gustavus Community Network. As we transition from the Gustavus Community Association to the City of Gustavus at the close of 2004, some of those goals have been at least partially met.

Timeline

Through 1995: In the early days of the Internet, Gustavus residents made their TCP/IP connections via long-distance calls to CompuServe or other on-line services at $4-6/hour. Text-only browsing (Lynx) was available by dialing a local AlaskaNet phone number and connecting to the Statewide Library Electronic Doorway (SLED) using a telnet connection at 9.6 Kbps. This cost $2-4/hour and was paid for by the Alaska State Library.

1995: The Alaska State Library is awarded a National Telecommunications Infrastructure Assistance [NTIA] grant to connect communities in Southeast Alaska to the Internet with local dial-up numbers. The grant would fund creation of SEAKnet, the Southeast Alaska Network, a collaboration between the Alaska State Library, the University of Alaska's Statewide Office of Network Services, and local communities. The grant would provide the initial setup, training, and one year's worth of operations and administration in six communities in Southeast (Gustavus, Haines, Hoonah, Kake, Petersburg, and Wrangell).

April, 1996: Grant paperwork is completed, clearing the way for the SEAKnet project to begin.

July, 1996: Gustavus SEAKnet is online with the equipment located at the Gustavus school. A 56 Kbps frame relay circuit connects the equipment to UA's network center in Fairbanks. The school network is connected directly and dial-up users connect to four analog modems. Cathy Carson at the Southeast Regional Resource Center (SERRC) handles the administration and accounting.

April, 1997: Nathan Borson resigns as Gustavus SEAKnet representative and is succeeded by co-chairs Michael Opp and Judith Challoner-Wood. Grant funding runs out for SERRC administration; local communities begin paying SERRC $4/month for administrative services. SEAKnet board considers options for continuing services after the grant expires.

July, 1997: Grant funding runs out for telecommunications charges; henceforth Gustavus SEAKnet is supported entirely by its subscribers.

September, 1997: Membership reaches 35 subscribers.

April, 1998: Membership passes the 50 subscriber mark. By this time Bruce Paige is the Gustavus SEAKnet representative.

Summer, 1998: Gustavus School obtains its own district-wide Internet access. SEAKnet equipment is moved to the library.

August, 1998: Sister SEAKnet community Hoonah creates an independent community network with a satellite connection to the Internet.

January, 2000: Growth in use has completely overwhelmed the 56Kbps circuit, causing serious performance problems and discontent among members. Research begins in earnest on options for increasing capacity.

Fall, 2001: Gustavus SEAKnet votes to discontinue service from the University of Alaska and instead obtain Internet access via satellite.

December 31, 2001: The Gustavus Community Network is on-line! Gustavus residents connect to the Internet via a high-speed satellite connection instead of the single 56Kbps circuit that Gustavus SEAKnet members shared until now.

March, 2002: @Contact technician J.D. Simpson visits Gustavus and solves persistent connection quality problems by aligning the satellite dish.

July 30, 2002: GCN seeks proposals for broadband community network.

September 16, 2002: Members approve experimental wireless network.

July 25, 2004: Update and Proposed changes include new broadband customer, wireless network at library, new rates, GCN becoming a municipal utility, and building a test wireless broadband network in the Salmon River area.

December, 2004: City of Gustavus passes a resolution creating Gustavus Community Network as a municipal utility. The Gustavus Community Association disbands and transfers GCN assets to the city.

For more recent developments, see network news and the Gustavus Technicians forum.
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