[MLB-WIRELESS] [OT] Re: Australian Wireless Association AGM for 2003

Donovan Baarda abo at minkirri.apana.org.au
Tue Oct 21 11:04:39 EST 2003

On Tue, 2003-10-21 at 00:22, Duane wrote:
> Hi all...
> With the year slowly passing by it's always good to reflect on what
> has happened, and of course what we could do better if we had the
> opportunity to do things again. This of course brings me to a recent
> announcement about the AWA annual general meeting, and more to the
> point an item to allow a change in rules to allow commercial entities
> to become members of the association. It seems as if things have
> finally come full circle, what started out an act of altruism, to
> build up a community body for the community good, will turn into
> nothing more then a trade association, a wolf in sheeps clothing is
> the first analogy to pop into my head.
> I thought the whole point of AWA was:
> "The association is a non-commercial, not-for-profit body whose
> members wish to embrace wireless networking technologies for the
> benefit of the community."
> So if the ideals have gone, then that sonic boom about 10 minutes back
> was altruism heading out the window. 

Hmmm... I would almost describe the feeling on reading this as daja-vu,
except that I _know_ exactly where this has happened before.

APANA debated for years the merits of allowing commercial members. In
the end the hard-core anti-commercial crew won out. APANA has only two
types of members, individuals, and non-profit organisations.

The outcome for APANA Melbourne was it grew to a a peak of 473 members
(1294 members nationally) from 1992 to 1996, and then shrank down to 43
members (524 nationally) by 2003. APANA Melbourne is stabilising at this
size, but APANA nationally is still shrinking, as the rest of APANA is a
couple of years behind APANA Melbourne.

The similarities between AWA and APANA are significant. APANA got into
the Internet before the commercial world even knew it existed. It was
started by idealistic, non-commercial community people. It grew rapidly
while it was one of the only kids on the block, then the commercial
interests started to muscle in.

The commercial pressure came from two directions; outside competition,
and people within the organisation going commercial. Many of the
Melbourne ISP's (alphalink, aardvark, cosmos, labyrinth, werple, etc)
are ex-APANA sites that left because APANA's non-commercial stance
forbid them from remaining connected members. There were ferocious
debates about the "non-commercial clause", and APANA Melbourne nearly
splintered from APANA over the issue.

I suspect that if APANA had relaxed the non-commercial requirements,
then APANA Melbourne would be much larger now. It could have been the
RACV (another non-profit organisation) of the Victorian Internet,
providing VIX style services to most ISP's, and employing full time

However, it wouldn't be the community motived organisation it started
out as, and mostly still is. The guys running the big ISP's would
running the show, and there would be no room for little guys just
wanting to join in, experiment, and learn from their mistakes.

I'm not sure what would have been better... but I think AWA is in the
same position APANA was in 1995/1996, and now is the time to decide
where you want to go.

Donovan Baarda <abo at minkirri.apana.org.au>

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