IIMS 94 contents
[ IIMS 96 contents ]

Remote access to the Internet

Geoff Rehn and Roger Atkinson
Murdoch University

Many users of the Internet enjoy organisational access via local area networks, with Ethernet connections to personal computers on their own desks, accounts on hosts with a relatively high speed Internet gateway, and in house support from their own computing and network services staff. These users have continuous connections to the Internet, open or potentially open whenever their desktop computers are turned on. However, many other users or intending new users of Internet services are located in small organisations such as schools, small businesses and local libraries, without local area networks and hosts. Typically these users connect to a remote host via daily or less frequent calls via a modem and telephone line. Often, after gaining some Internet experience, these users will be expected by their organisation to tackle the daunting task of developing an upgrade path.

How does a school, small business or local library "scale up" from using a single modem and occasional telephone connection, to multiple users and continuous connections for a reasonable number of desktop computers? What do I need to learn, how much it will cost, what equipment, what software, who will provide an Internet gateway, who to turn to for advice, how to make it all work? In particular, these kinds of questions arise with special severity for schools, small businesses and local libraries located in rural and remote regions of Australia, isolated from metropolitan suppliers by apparently high costs for telecommunications. How can we minimise that disadvantage?

This paper offers some suggestions on ways to develop small scale local area networks with continuous Internet connections, and some comments on how some of the key obstacles may be overcome. It is not a complete coverage, because this is a relatively new and rapidly evolving topic in Australia, characterised by a steep learning curve for all parties.

Connecting a remote LAN to the Internet

In planning for the connection of a small, remote local area network (LAN) to the Internet, a variety of factors influence design and implementation. These include the presence (or absence) of any existing LAN at the remote site, and its nature (is it Ethernet or perhaps Apple LocalTalk?), budget considerations (some solutions will cost more than others), the nature of the Internet account with an ISP (Internet Services Provider), including whether a single SLIP/PPP account is to be used, whether a set of C-class IP addresses for each machine (or "host") on the LAN is to be provided, whether a semi-permanent (ie. 24 hour) connection is desired and, finally, if the connection is to use ISDN instead of standard telephone dialup.

In this section, we outline briefly a variety of solutions for a variety of scenarios. We will assume that cost is a major consideration and that the school, library or community group is not looking at a more expensive proprietary solution such as a Novell server and network. There are many solutions and scenarios and we cannot claim to cover them all. Let us try and outline solutions that gradate in complexity and ease of implementation.

On the Web, a novice's introduction to networking concepts for a LAN is available at the Web66 pages http://web66.coled.umn.edu/Construction/Construction.html

An Ethernet LAN

The most desirable LAN is one that is based upon Ethernet connectivity at the physical level. Each computer on the LAN has an Ethernet card installed and all computers on the network are cabled up. In some cases a LAN of this kind may already be in place, but using protocols other than the Internet's TCP/IP protocol suite, for example Windows for Workgroups or perhaps Apple's AppleTalk/EtherTalk.

There are several types of Ethernet connectivity and new standards are emerging, such as 100Base-TX for fast Ethernet. However, the most common standards are 10Base-2 (thin coaxial cable, which connects with BNC video-like connectors), and 10Base-T (unshielded twisted pair, UTP, which plugs in with telephone-like RJ-45 jacks). In practice, it is probably easier to connect up a LAN using 10Base-2 type Ethernet with the BNC type connectors. In that case, the cards will need to have 10Base-2 BNC connectors on them, although many Ethernet cards include both the BNC and RJ-45 connection. These may be purchased for about A$100.

Figure 1

Figure 1: Example of small Ethernet LAN and Internet connection

An additional point to consider if choosing to use 10Base-T (UTP), rather than 10Base-2, is that UTP will require the addition of an Ethernet hub, with a number of ports for the RJ-45 modular jacks to plug into. The number of ports can vary (8, 12 and 16 being common) and hubs may be stacked ("chained") to support a LAN with more computers than the number of ports on an individual hub. However, 10Base-T hubs are not cheap and a cost of $1000 - $2000 dollars may be incurred, though the discerning shopper might pick up a bargain by looking for second-hand hubs; this avenue applies to all that we discuss. On the other hand, 10Base-2 simply requires that the machines be daisy-chained off each BNC T-connector, with proper termination at each end of the chain. The 10Base-2 cable segments can be up to about 185 metres without the need for a "repeater" to amplify the signal, whereas 10Base-T is restricted to about 100 meters. Thus, it would be possible to have a LAN in a school's computer lab, and another machine at some distance away in the library (or indeed, another LAN in the library!).

Ethernet cabling distances are larger than those available for plain old serial lines (like your printer cable), which are restricted to about 15 metres. However, serial connectivity is cheap and we will discuss this below.

An Ethernet may be applied for PCs, Macintoshs and others such as Acorn. It is the defacto networking standard and provides very fast connectivity (10 Mb/s) between the machines on the LAN and is desirable for the use of a local server or "host".

An AppleTalk LAN

If your LAN consists primarily of Apple Macintosh computers, it is very easy to network these using Apple's LocalTalk cabling and connectors. If an Apple network is already in place, it is likely that it uses LocalTalk at the physical level; if you have file sharing capabilities already, this is bound to be the case. It is not well known that the TCP/IP protocol can run over LocalTalk/AppleTalk and configuring your Apple LAN to do this is very simple. Farralon's PhoneNet connectors are cheaper than Apple's proprietary solution and also ordinary telephone cable can be used to connect with standard RJ-11 modular telephone jacks. Apple's IP Gateway product will gateway and route between Ethernet and LocalTalk networks, thus enabling Ethernet connected Macs and LocalTalk Macs to talk to each other and the Internet.

Figure 2

Figure 2: Example of serial connected LAN and Internet connection

A serial LAN

It is possible to set up a TCP/IP based network that uses simple serial lines to connect each machine on the "LAN" to a single "host" or "server" computer, with a multiple port serial card, that is in turn connected to the Internet, most likely by plain dialup, using just a single Internet account and IP number. The serially-connected computers will use either the SLIP or PPP protocol to connect to the single Internet-connected host machine, or perhaps a proprietary protocol.

Such really cheap serial solutions can be set up in several ways, which require varying degrees of technical proficiency. "Low budget" planners could give serious consideration to using this solution, as it is possible to get a LAN connected to the net in this fashion with minimal outlay, for serial cabling is cheap and often public domain freeware can be used.

One proprietary solution implemented under the Windows environment is the LANIS (Local Area Network Internet Server) system, which is provided with both software to setup the server box and a serial card (8 or 16 ports). Only the server is required to have the Windows operating system, for example a 486/66 computer running Windows 3.1; both Windows or Macintoshs can hang off this server, using a single dialup account.

Interested readers are referred to the WWW site http://www.v-net.com/directory/lanis.html

Of interest also is the "Internet filter" that is available which can be configured to filter-out "objectionable" material. The cost of such a system is not cheap, being $US1950 for the 8 station LANIS system and $US2750 for the 16 station LANIS system.

We have not tested the above implementation but it appears to be promising, if expensive; offering simple implementation.

Vicom's TCP/IP Gateway for the Macintosh

A similar solution available for a Macintosh server that will enable multiple access through a single ISP account is Vicom's TCP/IP Gateway. This solution is more flexible than the above LANIS system in that it will enable the connection of Ethernet networks, LocalTalk networks, and plain serial connections through a multiple port serial card.

You can check out Vicom on the Web at http://www.vicomtech.com/vig.main.txt.html Again, costs are not cheap, with the starter pack (3 simultaneous users) priced at about $US700, and each additional user about $US50.

If you wish to use simple serial connections using Vicom's gateway product, you will need to purchase a serial card, such as the 4 port Hurdler at around $499 or the cheaper 4 port Port Juggler at $180. A 68020, or better, Macintosh is required. One down side is that this "gateway/router" Macintosh is "dedicated", ie. the server Mac cannot itself be used as an Internet-access machine - it simply routes the TCP/IP packets to the remote Internet host or to the local LAN.

One attractive feature of the Vicom product is its ease of setup and ability to route Ethernet packets. Thus, it could be used as a gateway/router for an Ethernet LAN with Macs or PCs, or both. The dedicated Macintosh should be a higher end Mac. Vicom's gateway can allow a "firewall" to be set up to protect the LAN from unwanted intrusion from the Internet, as well as acting as a dialin server allowing remote users to dial in to the gateway and access both the local LAN and the Internet.

An additional attractive feature is the ability of Vicom's gateway to allow "inbound mapping". That is, any machines or hosts on the LAN can be Internet servers, providing such services as FTP, mail and httpd for the World Wide Web. Hence, an outside call from the Internet to the gateway host will be redirected to the particular machine on the LAN that provides the appropriate service. It is virtually essential in any LAN configuration that the ability to be Internet "publishers", and not just consumers, is supported by the system.

SLIP/PPP emulation

The above two software solutions use what is called SLIP or PPP emulation. Each computer on the LAN has a "pretend" IP address and the gateway/routing machine is the one that has the "real" IP address. This explains why just one Internet account is sufficient, as it is to this single account on the remote ISP host machine that the various TCP/IP packets are sent from each of the remote LAN machines. Thus, not all Internet services are necessarily available to the machines on the LAN, but of course the usual and desirable ones are, including email, telnet, FTP and WWW. It is not the case that one can (easily) set up a machine on the LAN to act as a Internet server providing FTP, httpd for the Web, or an email host. You can "retrieve" from the Internet but cannot so easily "serve" back to the Net. However, you can have a machine that is a "local" Internet server, providing FTP, Web and email services to the local LAN but not visible from the outside Net.

An additional complexity may arise if the ISP account (ie. the "real" connection to the Internet) is itself an emulated one via SLIP/PPP emulators such as SLiRP or TIA, rather than a "real" account whereby your connected dialup machine has a "real" IP and hence could act as an Internet server. We are investigating further to confirm that a single account which uses slip or ppp emulation can be readily used to allow the connection of a LAN consisting of computers whose IP numbers are also dummies. This does work with the Linux set up described below, with Vicom's TCP/IP Gateway on the Macintosh, and quite likely with the MicroRouter 900i discussed below. This particular unit will be evaluated shortly and results will be reported to the conference.

MicroRouter 900i

The approaches outlined above are based upon software routing of data packets, by a software package installed on the local Internet-connected machine. Some would argue that software routing is not the way to go, given the relatively low cost of available hardware routers. One low cost hardware router is Compatible Systems' MicroRouter 900i, available for about A$2000. The MicroRouter 900i requires the dialup account to be PPP and not SLIP, and that the LAN to be connected to the Net be Ethernet based, either 10Base-2 or 10Base-T. The MicroRouter 900i can connect to the Internet using ISDN, as well as a 28.8 kb/s modem connection. If ISDN is to be used, a terminal adaptor is required also.

For a particular LAN, a suite of IP numbers is required and these are routed by the router to the Ethernet-connected machines on the LAN. Hence, the ISP must provide not just one IP number but a set of them, and this might involve greater cost. An ISP may be unwilling to provide a block of IP numbers for a non 24 hour semi-permanent type connection. However, you never know and investigation is warranted. As discussed above, the use of PPP emulation can obviate the need for a set of "real" IP addresses and just a single user account on the Internet that uses PPP emulation such as that provided by SLiRP or TIA will suffice. Some ISPs do not provide nor permit SLiRP or TIA. However, SLiRP is public domain and it is possible for a user to install and execute it from their own single user Unix account. It is yet to be determined whether or not the MicroRouter 900i will work with PPP emulation.

In the scenario whereby a real IP number is possible for each machine on the LAN, each machine can have its own host name, such as:
or, for an additional small fee, a special unique domain name can be officially registered on your behalf, such as mydomain.edu.au. It may not be obvious but domain names cannot be assigned willy nilly by the end user but need to be officially allocated, by the ISP if their domain name is to be used, or by the authorising body if one's own domain name is to registered.

Here, any computer on the LAN can be an Internet "server" providing Web, email and ftp services to the outside Net, since each machine has its own real IP number. In addition, you may consider setting up a machine as a "firewall" to prevent unwarranted outside access to the LAN.

Another routing solution that we will look at further below is a computer running Linux, a public domain Unix, or a proprietary Unix such as a Sun or Solaris, to perform the task of routing and act as an Internet server.

24 hour "semi-permanent" connections

Of course it is highly desirable to be "permanently" connected to the Internet. What this means is that access is always available via a dedicated phone line, or ISDN connection, without having to take your chances on getting a dialup connection to your busy provider with its limited number of modems, and an increasing number of users causing congestion problems at the ISP's site.

However, at present installation and rental for a permanent connection is relatively expensive. One provider that is directly connected to the Internet backbone gives pricing of $5,000-6,000 annually for a 28.8 kb/s dialup connection, plus set up costs of about $1,500, plus the costs of a modem at both ends and a small monthly modem "housing" cost. This would provide a dedicated line always available when needed. If you intend to set up an Internet host, such 24 hour connectivity is necessary. In addition, included in this setup cost is the allocation of a set of permanent IP numbers and domain name registration.

An ISDN semi-permanent is of course even more costly, with similar setup costs, but an annual cost of around $10,000, in addition to the incurred Telstra costs of connection to the ISDN terminal server, which will vary according to geographical distance. If say the above MicroRouter 900i is used, an additional terminal adaptor (TA) will need to be purchased. If say it is desired to connect a Unix box to ISDN, again a terminal adaptor and ISDN card will be required.

Setting up a Unix host

One networking solution that is popular is the use of a Unix operating system host (a "Unix box") that is connected to the Net and also routes packets to the LAN, usually connected to it via Ethernet, although serial SLIP/PPP connections are possible locally. Implementing dialup access to the Unix box from further remote machines (or indeed LANs) is relatively easy to implement.

Linux is one public domain freeware implementation of Unix suitable for 386 or 486 PCs, and NetBSD is another. A "port" of Linux to the Macintosh is in progress. Linux permits full TCP/IP networking, including routing and gateway functions. Getting Linux up and running and networked is not for the faint hearted, but it is immensely satisfying to set up, configure and get networked.

Once installed, the use of DIP scripts enable the automatic connection of the Linux/Unix box to the ISP account. A LAN is easily connected using the above 10Base-2 BNC-T type connections and it can include Windows PCs and Macs running the usual public domain TCP/IP network information retrieval tools; or 10Base-T can be used with the addition of an Ethernet hub.

There is ready information of the Net on setting up Linux and networking over TCP/IP. In addition, many good books are available.

One beautiful implementation is connecting a Linux box to an ISP that provides SLIP/PPP emulation, such as the freeware SLiRP or proprietary TIA ("The Internet Adaptor"). In this case, a single account can be used to provide access to the machines on the LAN, which are set up using "dummy" IP numbers. For further information, read http://www.cnrcoll.nf.ca/~andy/slirp/slirp-LAN.html or the documentation for SLiRP. Without SLiRP or TIA, the remote LAN will need to use "real" IP numbers for each of its computers and these will need to be provided by the ISP to you and some routing tables to be set up at the ISP's end as well as the Linux/Unix end, which may or may not cost extra.

Alternatively, if one's single ISP account is the usual "real" SLiRP or PPP (although an increasing number of ISP's are opting for the use of SLiRP themselves as their default SLIP/PPP service), one can set up two Linux boxes - the first connects to the ISP and has a "real" IP but in addition is running the public domain SLiRP on it, such that the second Linux box can connect to it (via say SLIP) and then the LAN (on Ethernet) can connect to the second Linux box. Again, the user is referred to the above Web reference.

If the budget is not a limiting factor, an "off-the-shelf" pre-configured Unix box can be purchased for A$6-8000. The hardware provider may pre-configure the necessary TCP/IP networking parameters for your LAN as well as establish dialup connectivity to your ISP.

These Unix boxes can be used to provide the standard Internet services, WWW, email, news and FTP. However, such services are provided usually only where the host is permanently connected to the Net.

A Linux/Unix computer can be used to provide connectivity to a serial-based LAN using SLIP or PPP to connect Windows PCs or Macs to it, via a multi-port serial card on the Unix host, instead of using an Ethernet LAN. Serial cards for PCs (running Linux) are much cheaper than those for a Mac, an 8 port card costing under $200, and a 4 port card being about $70. The Linux box can be configured to provide SLIP or PPP service to each of these ports. If the SLIP/PPP emulator SLiRP is running on this Unix host, network PCs can connect using TCP/IP software such as Trumpet Winsock and "proxy" IP numbers. This solution is very similar to the commercial LANIS system which also enables uses a single dialup account to connect a LAN to the Internet.

Internet access for rural and remote users

This section is concerned with ways to obtain reasonably affordable access to the Internet for rural and remote users. In most respects, for example providing desktop computers, modems, user support and training, costs are not greatly different for metropolitan and remote users. The overwhelmingly large cost factor disadvantaging rural and remote users is the cost of telecommunications. Typically, a remote user of modem communications has to pay STD call charges to connect to an Internet access provider located in capital city, or in the case of providers using Telstra's 13 number service or Austpac service, the users pay these charges via connect time charges rebilled by their access provider. If a rural or remote centre has a local provider of Internet access, users pay collectively the telecommunications costs incurred for the provider's connection via a "leased line" to an Internet gateway in a capital city.

However, there is a fundamental key to enabling lower cost Internet access for rural and remote regions. This is "IP traffic aggregation", the loading of a "leased line" network as heavily as possible with the largest possible number of users and transporting their traffic as Internet Protocol data traffic, not as telephone traffic. Within a given leased line capacity, the larger the number of users, the better the cost per end user can be minimised.

IP traffic aggregation

As most of Australia's rural and remote centres contain relatively small populations, "traffic aggregation" means placing all Internet traffic from all local users in education, business, government and community sectors on to a single, shared "leased line" to the nearest Internet gateway in a capital city. For example, consider an ISDN (Integrated Services Digital Network) semi-permanent connection with transmission capacity of 64 kb/s, equivalent to one telephone channel within Telstra's network (a "semi permanent" is like a telephone connection open continuously, 24 hours per day, for months or years). A single host using this capacity to communicate into the Internet may accommodate 15 to 30 concurrent users (as discussed below). Contrast these scenarios:
  1. 15 to 30 concurrent users make individual long distance modem calls to a remote host, using 15 to 30 separate telephone channels and incurring individual billing for STD calls on their Telstra telephone accounts.

  2. 15 to 30 concurrent users make local modem calls to a local host. One local call fee per call is incurred on their Telstra telephone accounts. Their Internet traffic is carried long distance to the gateway by one telephone channel (the host's ISDN semi-permanent), not 15 to 30 channels.
Although the cost of the local host and the leased line to the host's Internet connection point has to be shared among all local users, typically the second option is much lower cost than any other. The basic reason is that it takes advantage of the high efficiency with which channel sharing is achieved by the Internet Protocol suite, in contrast to modem traffic carried as telephone traffic, in which case users' sharing of a long distance channel is not possible. Also, Telstra's charge per month for a leased line is very much lower than the charge which would accrue if you dialled an ordinary STD call and stayed on the phone for a month.

The number of local users "loaded" upon a single leased line and the total user base which may be supported cannot be specified precisely. The estimate of 15 to 30 concurrent users on one leased line may relate to 500 to 1000 as the total user base. The main factor is users' and management's perceptions of the optimum. With more users, the cost per user is lower, but there is a degradation of service as more users are added, arising from heavier competition for a limited number of modem connections, and slower response times when a leased line is too heavily loaded with too many concurrent users.

To extend the example, consider a regional centre which is between 800 and 2000 km distant from a capital city Internet connection point. Suppose that this centre has a demand for 120 hours of user connection per day (eg, 120 users averaging 1 hour per day, or 360 users averaging 20 minutes per day, etc) The comparison between data transport as 1. telephone traffic, or 2. Internet Protocol traffic via a local host or terminal server, is as follows:

  1. Telstra transport of telephone traffic to the modem pool of a host in the nearest capital city. The telecommunications cost to be passed on to users may be between 9 and 41 cents per minute for each user (Telstra, 1993), although a provider of a 13 or 008 number for data communications, such as Open Net or Microsoft Network, may have access to commercially confidential discounts from Telstra's scheduled tariffs. The user charge per user is not decreased by having a larger number of users.

  2. Local modem pool connecting to a local host or terminal server which has a leased line (one ISDN semi-permanent, 64 kb/s capacity) costing $19,632 in annual rental to Telstra (Telstra, 1993). This is equivalent to about 3.75 cents per minute. The telecommunications cost to be passed on to users is under 1 cent per minute per user for the scenario outlined above. Cost will be lower if a larger number of users is available to share the leased line, up to its capacity which may be of the order of 180 to 300 hours of user connection per day.
There are other kinds of costs in addition to telecommunications costs cited above, for example the fixed costs involved with 13 or 008 number services if used, costs of network equipment for connection to an ISDN semi-permanent, and the cost of a host, its modem pool and its Internet connection. However, such costs tend to be either reasonably similar for both examples, or relatively small compared with the costs cited above. Internet connection costs, for example see AARNet (1995), are a major component. Although there are these uncertainties, it's clear that regional aggregation of IP traffic via a local modem pool connecting to a local host or terminal server will enjoy a substantial advantage over Telstra transport of telephone traffic to a remote host.

Regional aggregation of traffic

A number of technical options for regional aggregation of IP traffic may be appropriate, according to different circumstances, and regional centres may evolve different solutions. The main possibilities may include:
  1. Telstra.
  2. Local terminal server operated by a business, government, education or community group.
  3. A local host or hosts operated by business, government, education or community groups.
  4. Regional gateways provided by routers in major non-metropolitan centres to aggregate traffic from smaller regional centres.
Telstra's schedule of tariffs for IP gateways provides only for capital city gateways or "points of presence" (AARNet, 1995). At present there is no indication that Telstra will provide regional gateways for use by providers located in regional centres. Any such provision would be in competition with Telstra's carriage of modem traffic via long distance telephone connections, or Telstra's sale of regional leased lines or its Austpac service for data transport. Telstra may decide to leave the role of regional aggregator of IP traffic entirely to other parties, confining itself to the role of capital city and international aggregator of IP traffic.

Telstra has no good reason to engage in the highly competitive "retail market" aspect of Internet access. Telstra is unlikely to become a provider of local modem pools, because the work involved tends to be closely related to user support and services areas in which it has little expertise deployed at rural or remote centres.

A "local terminal server" and attached modem pool provides an efficient way to aggregate traffic. The terminal server converts modem traffic into Internet packets for digital transmission on a leased line to an Internet gateway, thereby enabling sharing of leased line capacity by concurrent users in number up to the size of the modem pool. Some of the larger private retailers of Internet access adopt this method, which enables them to work with a central host providing its services nationwide. The ADEnet Project also provides a terminal server approach, using existing Internet connections and permitting traffic to any of the participating universities (Atkinson, 1995).

A local terminal server may cater for several types of connection, including users wishing to have their individual modem traffic transported to hosts elsewhere on the Internet as permitted by the terminal server (individual users hang up upon completing their work), and users of a local host or LAN which connects via modem, either by a leased line connection or by an intermittent dialup connection kept open as long as its users are active. For example a school or business or government agency may have its own local host, which may be part of a local area network (as described in the first section of this paper) and may even have its own local modem pool.

A local host provides local users with a login name and password, with access to a range of Internet services. Thus a user may have a local email address and then will not require a login name and password for a host elsewhere. For example, a university distance education student with an email address on a local host does not need an email address on one of the university's hosts.

The relative merits of "local terminal server, remote host" and "local host" are difficult to assess on technical grounds. Either approach will fulfil the primary goal, aggregation of IP traffic to minimise the costs of long distance carriage, and the two approaches may co-exist as indicated above. However, support for a local host and staff known to the regional community, businesses and schools may be more readily mobilised than support for use of a remote host. That factor may be vital in recruiting a sufficient number of users to reduce the cost per user down to attractive levels for rural and remote regions.

Local terminal servers or hosts in rural and remote regions may face high costs for a long distance leased line to a Telstra Internet gateway in a capital city. Thus there is scope for regional gateways, located in major non-metropolitan centres to aggregate traffic from smaller centres in adjacent regions. For example, consider 20 local terminal servers or hosts each having its own leased line all the way between its region and a capital city. If these can be replaced by shorter distance, larger capacity leased lines to a major centre, connecting to a capital city via a single shared leased line, costs will be reduced in most cases.

Organising regional collaboration

The technical options for regional aggregation of IP traffic show us the opportunities for minimising costs to the rural and remote end user. However, the question of how to implement the technical options is highly dependent upon collaboration between government, schools, TAFE, business, community and university sector participants in Internet services. The various sectors represented in a rural or remote region have to reach agreement on the sharing of access, under one of a number of models which could meet the goal of cost minimisation:
  1. A business enterprise, either a local small business or a business enterprise with head office elsewhere, sells services which may include one or more of:

  2. A government or educational agency, locally based or with head office elsewhere, operating in a public service mode or an entrepreneurial mode, provides on a cost recovery or commercial sales basis, one or more of the services:
In this context, "collaboration" means being able to secure widespread local community support for one of the general models listed above. Different kinds of providers may emerge in different communities according to circumstances, and larger population centres may be able to support several models. For example, a rural or remote region's provider may be: Although the university sector collectively introduced the Internet to Australia, universities by themselves cannot undertake wide area networking into rural and remote regions. This is because in any particular rural or remote region, a university's distance education students are likely to be only a very small fraction of the total numbers in that community. However, in the special case where a university operates a branch campus with a network connection, it may be in a unique position to lead regional dissemination of the Internet, to recruit more users and thus reduce costs for all users, including its own staff and students. The extent to which a university may become a value added reseller could be subject to some constraints under the terms of Telstra's 1995 agreement with AARNet, but the trend is clearly towards greater deregulation and more scope for value added resellers rather then less scope.

In many cases, Australia's rural and remote regions may have computer network connections operated by state government departments and by corporations. These may provide a basis for regional aggregation of Internet traffic, but typically these capabilities are exclusive to each department or corporation and are not made available to others. For example, in Western Australia the major corporations in Western Australia's mining centres have private networks, some extending world wide, but with no regional aggregation of traffic except for their own cost saving purposes. The major departments in the WA State Government at present each have their own leased line networks extending to major regional centres, with virtually no regional aggregation of their traffic. However, WA State Government steps towards improved management of telecommunications, rapidly increasing awareness of the advantages of Internet communications and the lack of Telstra gateways outside the capital city of Perth may initiate a State role in regional aggregation of traffic. This would reduce Internet connection costs for WA's rural and remote regions, at least via educational and community agencies which can relate readily to the university sector, including schools, TAFE colleges, public libraries and local government.

Connecting remote schools, small businesses and libraries

This task may well depend much more upon the ability of a rural or remote community to organise support for a locally based Internet gateway, than upon the vague possibilities for some kind of price discounts from Telstra, or government subsidies, or government organised Internet access. If all sectors of a rural or remote community agree to put their purchasing power towards supporting a single connection to the Internet, which may encompass school, library, small business, community and government sectors, their Internet access could be at much lower prices compared with current prospects. The technical options are available now.

Unfortunately, there are considerable political and social obstacles to local action prevailing over capital city inertia in relation to the Internet for rural and remote communities. For example, at present it is unlikely that any single State government agency will take an initiative these cases and become a gateway reseller to the rest of the community, although in Western Australia's case, Bureau Services is one possibility. Nevertheless, united community pressure eventually will bring low cost Internet access, comparable to capital city prices, to rural and remote users. Sustained, widespread local interest in the Internet, even if that requires several years of expensive practice using STD calls to a metropolitan provider, will help considerably to hasten the arrival of low cost access for rural and remote users.


AARNet (Australian Academic and Research Network) (1995). Telstra Internet Services Tariff. [1996] http://www.aarnet.edu.au/aarnet/pricelist.html

Atkinson, R. (1995). Internet access for schools via cleo.murdoch.edu.au. In R. Oliver and M. Wild (eds), Learning without limits. Proceedings of the Australian Computers in Education Conference 1995, Perth, 10-13 July, Vol.1, 99-109. Perth: ECAWA. http://www.users.bigpond.net.au/atkinson-mcbeath/roger/pubs/confs/atkinson-acec95.html

Atkinson, R. (1995). ADEnet Project. http://cleo.murdoch.edu.au/asu/edtech/net_access/adenet.html

Telstra (formerly Telecom Australia) (1993). Prices guide. Melbourne: Telecom Australia. (Note: At the time of writing, details of 1995 decreases in ISDN pricing were not available to the authors).

Le Roux, Graeme (1995). AusComms rates remote access solutions. Australian Communications, Nov 1995, 63-76.

Rehn, G. (1995a). The Macintosh and Dialup Access to the Internet: Implementing the Graphical User Interface. In Technology 95: Proceedings of the 1995 Apple University Consortium Academic Conference, Perth, 3-6 July, 245-255. Perth: Apple Australia. http://cleo.murdoch.edu.au/asu/edtech/pubs/rehn/auc95/auc95.html

Rehn, G. (1995b). Playing with TCP/IP: having fun on the Internet. In R. Oliver and M. Wild (eds), Learning without limits: Proceedings of the Australian Computers in Education Conference 1995, Perth, 10-13 July, Vol.1, 237-246. Perth: ECAWA. http://cleo.murdoch.edu.au/asu/edtech/pubs/rehn/acec95t/acec95t.html

Rehn, G. (1994). Software tools for dialup Internet access. In J. Steele and J. G. Hedberg (eds), Learning Environment Technology: Selected papers from LETA 94, 259-269. Canberra: AJET Publications. http://www.aset.org.au/confs/edtech94/rw/rehn.html

Authors: Geoff Rehn, Lecturer in Educational Technology
Roger Atkinson, Senior Lecturer in Educational Technology
Voice: +61 8 9360 6840 Fax: + 61 8 9310 4929
Academic Services Unit, Murdoch University, Murdoch WA 6150. Australia

Please cite as: Rehn, G. and Atkinson, R. (1996). Remote access to the Internet. In C. McBeath and R. Atkinson (Eds), Proceedings of the Third International Interactive Multimedia Symposium, 345-354. Perth, Western Australia, 21-25 January. Promaco Conventions. http://www.aset.org.au/confs/iims/1996/ry/rehn.html

This article (including an addendum) is also available at: http://cleo.murdoch.edu.au/asu/edtech/pubs/rehn/imms96/imms96.html

[ IIMS 96 contents ] [ IIMS Main ] [ ASET home ]
This URL: http://www.aset.org.au/confs/iims/1996/ry/rehn.html
© 1996 Promaco Conventions. Reproduced by permission. Last revision: 15 Jan 2004. Editor: Roger Atkinson
Previous URL 8 Jun 2000 to 30 Sep 2002: http://cleo.murdoch.edu.au/gen/aset/confs/iims/96/ry/rehn.html