GCN Frequently-Asked Questions
Questions and answers about Gustavus Community Network's Internet service
How do I sign up for the service?
How do I set up my computer to work with GCN?
See our setup page.
What is GCN's member policy?
Can we get something faster than modems?
GCN broadband service is available in very limited areas as of fall, 2009. Community-wide broadband is planned. Please see our Broadband access discussion for details.
Can I unplug my Open-Mesh wireless router when I am not using it?
GCN requests that you leave your wireless equipment on all the time unless the GCN administrator has told you otherwise. The reason is that other wireless mesh customers may be connecting to the Internet through your router and they may be disconnected if you turn off your equipment. Only the cooperation of all GCN customers makes it possible to have affordable broadband service despite our low population density and remote location. Thank you for being the community in community network!
What does it cost to leave my wireless equipment running all the time?
The Open-Mesh and Engenius radios are extremely energy-efficient, using one watt or less as actually measured by our watt-meter. One watt continuously used translates to 0.72 KWh/month. At September, 2009 Gustavus electric rates of $0.51 for business and $0.26 for residences subsidized by Alaska's Power Cost Equalization program, the GCN wireless equipment adds $0.37 or $0.19, respectively, to your monthly electric bill.
How can I check the status of my Open-Mesh radio?
You can visit the Open-Mesh dashboard. Hover over or click on your radio to see statistics such as throughput, link quality, and outages in the last 24 hours. The number in the middle of the dot is the number of users logged on to your radio. The green line that appears when you hover on a radio shows how it is routing traffic to and from the Internet.
What (and where) is a hotspot?
Generally, hotspot refers to a location where you can gain wireless access to the Internet, usually using Wi-Fi technology. Gustavus has very limited hotspot coverage; see our broadband access discussion for more information.
What are the prices, and how do I pay?
How fast is the Internet connection I get at a GCN hotspot?
Users typically get 500 Kbps or better uploads and downloads. However, these speeds are not guaranteed and many factors can affect performance including how heavily the system is loaded, your own computer, and sites on the Internet.
How do I use a GCN hotspot?
If you are in the right area and have the right equipment, you can connect to the wireless network called GCN. You need a wi-fi equipped computer or portable device, or an external wi-fi radio that connects to your computer or device. Your computer should detect that GCN is within range and you should be able to tell the computer to connect. You will probably be warned that the connection is insecure; there is no encryption of traffic and it is possible for other wireless users to "eavesdrop" on your network traffic. Connecting to secure sites such as banking sites is still secure, even over an insecure connection, because the traffic is encrypted.
How do I log on?
Once you have a wireless connection, open your web browser (i.e. Internet Explorer). No matter what page you try to go to on the Internet, it will present a GCN logon page. There you must enter a valid GCN user name and password. Once you have done so you will automatically be forwarded to the page you were trying to view. If you do not have a GCN account, or if you need to pay your bill, or if you have purchased only dial-up access, you will receive an invalid password error. If this happens, follow the links on the logon page to either go to your existing GCN account (to pay your bill or add broadband access) or to sign up for a new account.
How can I tell whether I am logged on? How do I log off?
View your hotspot status at http://hotspot.gustavus.ak.us . If you see a login page it is because you are logged off. Otherwise you will see a status window with your IP address, time you've been connected, data transferred, and a button to log off.
I logged on once, now I'm never asked to log on; why?
For our users' convenience, we have enabled "cookie logons." The hotspot server stores a cookie on your computer that automatically logs you on whenever you attempt to browse the Internet. The cookie expires after a certain time (3 days when this was written), at which time you will see the log on page again. If you don't want the log on to be automatic (i.e. you want to control when your children use the Internet), you need to block cookies from hotspot.gustavus.ak.us or log off from the hotspot status window .
I have to log on every time I open my web browser!
- You may be blocking cookies. To automate your GCN hotspot logon, change your browser to accept cookies from hotspot.gustavus.ak.us .
- Your computer firewall (if you connect directly to GCN) or
the router or Internet gateway device between you and GCN (if there is
one) may be rejecting ping requests from the hotspot controller. This
will cause you to be logged out automatically after only a few minutes
of inactivity because the hotspot cannot "see" you so thinks you are
disconnected. To change this behavior, alter your firewall or router
settings to reply to ping requests. This is done differently on every
system so you'll have to delve into your manuals to make the fix. For
- On a LinkSys router with the factory default configuration
- Log on to it by going to http://192.168.1.1 and entering username admin, password admin (unless you changed it to something else during setup).
- Click on the security tab (I think), un-check "Block WAN requests." and save your changes.
- On a Windows XP system connected directly to GCN, allow incoming echo requests by following the instructions under Nobody can ping my computer in this document.
- On a LinkSys router with the factory default configuration
- Another way to stay logged in is to go to http://hotspot.gustavus.ak.us . As long as this status window is open you should stay logged on. This window will pop up automatically when you log on if your browser allows popup windows from hotspot.gustavus.ak.us . You can just minimize it to get it out of the way while you do other work.
- With the above changes you should be able to stay logged in for days, as long as your computer or router remains on.
Beginning March 1, 2007 the Gustavus Community Network is managing accounts, billing, and payments using an automated billing system called Freeside. Beginning July 1, 2007 we are charging users per our new usage-based pricing. For more information about this major change see 2006 Auto-Billing Upgrades.
My bill is wrong. What do I do?
Contact GCN administrator Corvid Computing: firstname.lastname@example.org or 697-2810.
How do I pay my bill?
- Please pay online by credit card or direct debit to your checking account! You can even set payments to be charged to your card or account automatically!
- For now, you may also make a check payable to GCN and mail it
Gustavus Community Network
PO Box 1
Gustavus AK 99826
- Prepaid cards will also be available soon.
Why was my August, 2007 bill suddenly much higher than it
ever was before?
GCN started its new usage-based pricing on July 1, 2007. Most users will see no change in their bill but heavier users will see increases, in some cases many times their previous bills. This change allows GCN to meet the demands of heavy users without penalizing those who are not contributing to increases in the costs of delivering service. For details, see the pricing page and how to monitor your usage.
Can I still pay in advance so I don't have to pay each
Yes, you are welcome to send in a payment larger than the amount due on the invoice. FreeSide will automatically track your balance and will only send you an invoice when a balance is due again.
Can I still get a discount for pre-payment?
No. GCN has lowered its basic monthly rate so now in effect everyone gets a discount whether they pre-pay or not. This rate reduction is made possible by the efficiencies of the new automated billing system. There are no longer any additional discounts for advance payment.
Can I review my account on-line?
You can log in by clicking the Your Account link on the GCN home page using the same user name and password that you use to connect to GCN. This will allow you to see your current balance and any current open invoice. If you have a credit balance (shown as a negative) you will not receive an invoice. From Your Account you can also add another e-mailbox (set up services), see your on-line usage, change your password, and Recharge Account with Credit Card or checking account. Recharging with prepaid cards will be available soon.
I attempted to recharge my account with a credit card but
received an error. What do I do?
Copy the full and exact text of the error and send it via e-mail to email@example.com . Nate will investigate the cause and make sure you get credited for your payment if it was charged to your card.
I am not receiving GCN invoices.
Freeside invoices are sent automatically via e-mail only and only when you have a balance due. If you have a balance due and you did not get an invoice it is probably because the billing e-mail address that Freeside has for your account is incorrect. Please advise Corvid Computing by e-mail or phone (697-2810) of the correct e-mail address to use for your billing.
Can I receive my invoice by postal mail or some other
GCN offers only e-mail invoices at this time in order to keep costs to a minimum. It may be possible to send invoices some other way for an extra charge. Contact Corvid Computing by e-mail or phone (697-2810) if you are willing to pay for paper.
How can I tell how much I am using GCN so I know what my
bill will be?
Since July 1, 2007 heavier users are billed for their network traffic. GCN records each of your sessions and makes them available to you so you can tell what your usage is before you receive your bill, or after your invoice arrives you can check to see when how much use took place. Simply log in by clicking the Your Account link on the GCN home page using the same user name and password that you use to connect to GCN. You may want to compare the usage-based and flat-rate plans available as of September 1, 2009, to ensure you are using the plan that best fits your needs.
OK, I'm logged in. Now how do I check my usage?
- Click View my usage
- Click your account (most people have only one). This will show your use for the current period (since your last invoice).
What do these numbers mean?
- Duration is the amount of time you have spent connected to GCN.
- Upload and Download is the amount of data you have sent (uploaded) to and received (downloaded) from the Internet, in bytes, kilobytes (K), megabytes (M) and gigabytes (G). A megabyte (M) is 1,024 K. A gigabyte (G) is 1,024 M. GCN charges for data based on your total upload and download, so add together the totals at the bottom of the two columns. As of September 1, 2009, Lifeline (e.g. dial-up) accounts include 500 M of traffic, Basic Broadband accounts include 1000 M of traffic, and Broadband Plus include 2000 M of traffic per month. Amounts over that are charged $.01 per M. So if you have a Lifeline account and your totals are 156.68M upload and 668.65M download, your total use is 825.33 MB and you will be billed for the 325.33 MB over 500. At $0.01 per M that will result in a usage charge of $3.25. There are also Flat-rate plans available with no limit to the amount of data uploaded or downloaded. For the most current usage limits, pricing, and plans available see the pricing page.
How can I check my usage for previous months?
Click the Previous Period link.
Can I see my traffic in real-time? I want to learn what
kinds of activity consume what amounts of data.
Yes, you can monitor your data consumption as it happens.
- For dial-up users, you need to locate the icon on your computer that represents your modem and then typically double-click it to view its status. For example, on Windows XP, locate the flashing icon by the clock and double-click on it. The total bytes sent and received since you connected are displayed continuously.
- For broadband users there is no modem connection. Go to http://hotspot.gustavus.ak.us to view your current session details. This status window will pop up automatically when you log on if your browser allows popup windows from hotspot.gustavus.ak.us .
Can I get a flat-rate account? I don't like the uncertainty
of not knowing what my bill will be. I'm afraid my [I, my kid, my
spouse] will run up my bill without knowing it.
Please see the GCN Pricing page for complete information on usage-based and flat-rate plans.
How can I check my mail from any computer?
Help! I'm getting hundreds or thousands of unwanted old messages!
Switch to IMAP or turn off the leave messages on server option. Details...
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