APANA is the Australian Public Access Network Association a non-profit association. The association began in 1988-1989 and was originally known as pubnet.

APANA is the oldest public computer network service and support organisation in Australia (older than many commercial Internet service providers).

APANA became a national association, divided into regions. A national Management Committee, elected by all members annually, coordinates the association’s activities; while each region is run by a Regional Committee, also elected annually by the regions members, which is responsible for day-to-day operations. The association is based around the concept of membership with each member being part of the national collective, and also (optionally) utilising services offered by a particular region of APANA (mostly based in state capital cities).

At the regional level, members provide sharing of knowledge, skills, experience, and hardware, as a co-operative endavour to provide an Internet presence without the artificially high costs of commercial providers, and also permitting otherwise unviable services (mailing lists, UUCP, Unix shell accounts, for example) at the members’ discretion.

Member support is usually available directly from other members in the region. Members of APANA can be individuals as well as other non-profit organisations. An Acceptable Usage Policy prohibits commercial use of their internal network, disallowing such websites and services being provided.

Early Networking Infrastructure

The group originated from ad-hoc experimentation with UUCP in Australia, at a time when most Open System-based computer networking relied on commercial or academic systems such as MHSnet, whose licensing and other costs put out it of reach of hobbyists of cheap UNIX systems.

Mark Gregson provided the initial UUCP gateway for news and email through an arrangement with Deakin University. His machine (vortex.pub.uu.oz.au) in Geelong Victoria, and Ronald Conron (sanix.pub.uu.oz.au) in Adelaide South Australia, made the first interstate connection sometime during 1988-1989. By 1990, the primary UUCP gateway machine became werple.pub.uu.oz.au, owned and operated by Andrew Herbert from Melbourne.

Several systems, a mixture of XENIX, SunOS, AmigaOS, Amiga Amix, Minix, and even MSDOS-based UUPC, or Waffle, would typically make 2400 bit/s dial-up modem links from every state in Australia to the primary hub system in Melbourne to poll for Email and Usenet usually twice a day, before they in turn exchanged messages with their local UUCP clients. Regardless of making a lot of expensive time-charged long-distance phone calls, the costs of the uucp net averaged out to a cost of about $40 per year per Unix system, as no other ‘artificial’ costs were involved.

There was a name change around 1989 from pubnet to APANA. APANA was Incorporated in the State of Victoria in 1991.

As the Internet infrastructure within Australia developed, by 1994 most APANA regions had acquired at least one permanent TCP/IP gateway connection that they were able to share among the members that could make the permanent modem connection. This allowed many to have their own personal Linux, FreeBSD, or other system directly and permanently connected to the Internet from their homes at ‘at cost’ rates, typically $30-50 per month, at a time when commercial alternatives were about 5-10 times the price, with volume charging, and generally only available in the capital cities. A number of members offered Public Access dial-up Unix shell and Point-to-Point Protocol (PPP), a concept that was soon commercialized by many who left the non-commercial APANA to form for-profit Internet Service Provider companies.

Politically, there were large issues with those who were ‘asset stripping’ APANA in the 1995-era ‘Internet Discovery’ boom days, with accusations of APANA-bought hardware like expensive ISDN terminal adapters being ‘gifted’ to individuals who were separating to form ISPs. Where the owner/operator of a large public-access system decided to commercialize, all their dial-up users would prefer the least-effort of staying with the operator, rather than switching to a remaining APANA public access site.

The organization does provide ADSL (1 & 2) services at a national level and regional levels, using several ADSL wholesalers, along with similar 56k dialup arrangements. It was unsuccessful at securing government grants for free wireless community networking.


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