NANO – Nechako Access Network Organization

A bit of background on Hwy16 Internet and it’s origins. My first experience with the Internet was volunteering to help with the Nechako Access Network Organization (NANO) Internet society. (see below) Along with John Rowlandson credit should go to the technical team of Dave Irwin, Kevin Scott, and myself who managed to compile this new flangled Linux thing (Slackware 2.2, followed by Redhat 4.1) and make it all work. Every time you changed a driver you had to recompile the entire kernel. (If anyone is up to a challenge, here is a link to Slackware 2.2 – have fun)

This was a direct cut and paste from copyright © 1996 NK Guy (tela @ It looks a lot like the content that I wrote for NANO’s website many years ago.

6.5 Nechako Access Network Organization (NANO)

The Nechako Access Network Organization (NANO) is based in the town of Vanderhoof, a remote agricultural community located in the interior of British Columbia. The 1991 population of the Vanderhoof area is approximately 15,500 people. (British Columbia regional index, 1995, p. 324.) It is a very large region, some 2,000 square kilometres, and thus has a very low population density.

6.5.1 Historical background to the community network.

NANO had its origins in September 1994 with John Rowlandson, who had recently moved to Vanderhoof. He noticed that there were no opportunities for the public to access the Internet, except for placing long-distance calls to Vancouver and other large centres, and so put up a notice in a local co-op asking if anyone else was interested in looking into the problem. He got a small group together, and NANO had its first directors’ meeting in November of that year. From this meeting a core group of directors was formed.

The directors met fairly regularly for the next few months, fundraising extensively. By August of 1995 they had raised some $20,000 from local funds, and were able to get a test system based on consumer PC hardware and the Linux operating system online. Later they also became a beneficiary of a federal government CAP (Community Access Program) grant. By October of 1995 Canada’s first rural remote community network was operational.

Originally NANO obtained a network feed via the local school district, SD 56. It had a fractional T1 (128K) connection through WesTel Communications for use by school administrators, and NANO was able to purchase excess capacity of that feed for use with its community networking services for a brief period.

The school district underwent some political changes, however, amalgamating with another neighbouring district. As a result its excess network capacity was no longer available and NANO was forced to look elsewhere. After extensive discussions with local business, NANO ended up forming a partnership with what was to become a local Internet service provider. It now anchors this service, providing access via four dialup lines to its text-only system for a mandatory $35 per annum fee. However, users coming in via NANO’s public access sites, and thus not tying up the dialup lines, do not have to pay this fee. At present it has 230 members.

The respondent interviewed mentioned a number of difficulties in reaching certain segments of the community. First, the area is the base for a number of agricultural religious communities, such as a settlement of Mennonites. These communities tend to be very traditional in nature, and frequently shun new forms of technology. The Mennonites in particular, while not strict Old Order, are nevertheless distrustful of modern technology.

Second, the area has an extremely high percentage of party line telephones – lines shared by several residences. One consequence of this is that modem use is impossible, because CRTC {19} (Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission) regulations do not permit modem use on party lines. The First Nations reserves, for example, are largely served by party lines and thus would have no way of accessing a dialup system even if they had the computers necessary to do so. The party line issue is a major one in the area, and NANO has taken an active role in highlighting the problem in the media as part of its advocacy work. It also organized a petition to the government over the question.

Community outreach is of great importance to NANO. In the summer of 1996 the organization was able to hire a pair of summer students to work on training programs to help people learn the system. In addition, NANO has built an innovative portable Mobile Access Centre designed for the purposes of rural training and outreach. This access centre consists of four laptop-style personal computers, linked together in a small local area network. (lan) It has the necessary hardware so that all four connections can be multiplexed over a single phone line. It is thus easy to pack up the system, take it to a workplace or private residence, plug it into the telephone and have an instant online training centre – in familiar, non-threatening surroundings – for up to four people simultaneously.

In addition to this mobile centre the organization maintains public access terminals at the local public library, Vanderhoof’s adult learning centre and the chamber of commerce.

Sadly, NANO folded up it’s tent in the early part of the 21st century.