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Report of the Chair - AGM 2006
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Report of the Chair
Chebucto Community Net Society
Annual General Meeting 2006

Presented by Chair Bernard Hart

At last year's AGM Marilyn MacDonald, my predecessor, opened her report with "The year 2005 was not a great one for Chebucto". While I wish I could simply reverse this statement for 2006 - clearly, I can't. However, that isn't the full story nor is it an accurate characterization of 2006.

The fact is Chebucto is still in operation and it is still solvent. And this is in spite of tremendous difficulties which led to the demise of other Internet Providers in our region. Not only did CCN survive but we have added new services and while we have not progressed as far as we wished with our Wireless Service - we have progressed.

I will leave it to our Technical Chair to explain in more detail the difficulties we encountered during the year but I do want to pay tribute to Ed Dyer, our Committee Chair and Andrew Wright and Johnathan Thibodeau, our staff, for their heroic efforts to keep Chebucto in operation and to develop the new services. My understanding is that the most extreme of these efforts can be attributed to Johnathan who was so committed to completing the work on the new Mail Box service, he worked almost continuously through a weekend in March.

After a major planned expenditure of funds for advertising in 2004 and 2005, Chebucto reduced its efforts in 2006. This was partly because we lacked clear evidence illustrating the value of this approach in terms of new memberships; and partly because we simply lacked the funds to continue this campaign. However, we did take ads in the Enfield Weekly Press, a community newspaper in an area which does not have a high speed service. In addition we placed ads in the Dalhousie Gazette. While hard evidence of the efficacy of this effort is lacking, there is an indication the ads were noticed which may have led people to our Website and to subsequent signups.

Our main vehicle of public presence, however, has been The Mousepad which appears bi-weekly in the Sunday Herald. First published in January of 2003, it was written by board member, Mark Alberstat until March 2006 when it was taken over as a voluntary activity by Andrew Wright who is doing an excellent job. On January 14th of this year the Mousepad marked publication of its 100th column which was devoted to a brief history of Chebucto and news concerning our venture in community wireless. One month before this, Chebucto was approached by the Management and Information Systems at Cape Breton University for permission to use the Mousepad columns as a teaching resource in their Computers in Business course. With the permission of both writers, we were able to respond favourably to their request.

In August, 2006 Chebucto was featured as a cover story in The Coast, the article focused on the history of Chebucto as part of the development of the HRM as a "smart city" and also drew readers' attention to our plan to develop a community wireless network.

During the year we also updated and revised our brochure and Heather Townsend, our Secretary, designed a poster which is now available on our website. We would encourage you to download copies which you can post on any public notice board. We will be talking more about such publicity ventures later this evening.

As a major component of the October Board meeting we had a planning session to consider the approach we should have for the launch of Wi-Fi. For this session the Board divided into three groups - a) publicity and communications; b) technical and c) legal and administrative. Following this session 1) spare equipment was acquired which could serve as the initial nodes; and 2) a flyer explaining the Wi-Fi service was prepared and delivered to the homes in the vicinity of Fenwick Tower. We did get some response to this drop and two offers for node hosts.

Just prior to one of our Board meetings we had a telephone conference with the Executive Director of the Ottawa Freenet. This was an interesting session and we were encouraged by the progress the Ottawa group is making. It appeared that one of the reasons for their success is the support provided by the Ottawa Public Library system.

During the year the Board has had a number of discussions re he role CCN is playing with respect to its organizational members. We have been concerned that there has been a slow loss of organizations and it has been difficult to reach new prospects. One of our plans is to attempt to reach prospective individual members through our organizations. We are hoping each organization will be willing to provide information to its members about CCN.

An affiliation which we had which might have assisted in our approach to organizations was with the Nova Scotia branch of the Canadian Volunteer Initiative. This was part of a Federal venture which was begun several years ago and was intended to provide support to NGOs across the Country. Chebucto had been an initial partner in this initiative and the web site for this organization is on our site. Unfortunately the Federal Government has terminated the national program; however, provincial support and funding will continue. At this stage Chebucto has been asked to maintain the web site and there will be a payment for this service.

Bob Adams, one of our Board members, has been playing an important role in this initiative as well as in assisting other organizations with their web sites.

I would also like to pay tribute to another Board Member, Tom Daly, who has been a long-time supporter of Chebucto and single handedly managed to keep the Halifax Regional Development Agency as one of our largest institutional users. Tom has moved to the south shore and while he is still in contact with us, he can no longer serve on the Board.

This evening we will be trying an activity which is a first for our AGMs, we intend to use a process to seek your input in four areas associated with membership and fund raising. Please give us your thoughts and also consider how you can participate in the growth of Chebucto. And let's look forward to 2007 and the years ahead with a determination to continue our effort to see that no one is left behind.

 

Bernard Hart

Chair
Chebucto Community Net

 

 

 


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