Authors: Shawn Henry and Casey Vander Ploeg
The purpose of this survey was to uncover patterns of success as well as the problems that community networks face in their day to day operations. Detailed results of 29 Free-Nets surveyed can be found in this report.
This report is part of the Info-Age Passport Project, a three year joint initiative which aims to enhance public access to the information highway, to educate the non-profit sector about the Internet and to share the experience of Calgary Free-Net organizers and volunteers with communities across Alberta and Canada.
Results showed that:
Eight of the 29 Free-Nets in the survey said they face an uncertain future. This is a wakeup call to the Free-Net community, governments and Canadians;
The Free-nets most in danger of collapsing are the more established and larger networks;
The need to expand services and keep up with technology is a burden for some Free-Nets. All of those with less than a 75% chance of survival have yet to move to a graphical user interface;
Providing free access to the Internet is becoming an impossible mission. As community networks grow, so do the operating expenses and the need to develop a stable funding base;
Some of the most stable Free-Nets are those whose primary source of income is individual users of the community network. Those more dependent on government funding express a lower chance of surviving.