In Kyiv, I worked out of the Canada Ukraine Partner's Office which is located in the Ukrainian Building (former museum to Lenin). I worked in cooperation with Alexander Usenko of the United Nations Internet Project and Michael Mackay of the Kyiv Mohyla Academy.
The United Nations Internet project allows people in Kyiv (and those who choose to dial in long distance) to access the Internet through the Kyiv Freenet. The Kyiv Freenet uses a "UUCP" or "Unix to Unix Control Protocol" method of Internet access. This means that Kyiv Freenet users prepare their E-mail and Usenet messages "off-line" and the only time that they are actually connected to the system is when they are uploading and downloading E-mail and Usenet Newsgroups postings. The system works very well and the text can be prepared in English (or any latin derivative), Russian and Ukrainian through a RUSKEY driver. Most of the users choose to only send messages in latin (English) as this is the most common form of text found on the Internet.
The quality of the telephone lines in Ukraine was a big concern for me when I was planning this project. Having been in Ukraine before, I knew how bad they were (and still are!). I selected the US Robotics Sportser External Fax/modem and it turned out to be a good decision. Even though the Ukrainian telephone lines were very bad, those US Robotics modems came through with flying colours. They are just fantastic. Sometimes, they were reporting a connection rate of 14,400 which is quite remarkable. So, from a technical point of view, the project was a success. Six of the seven organizations also required a computer system, and they were purchased in the cities where the health organizations were located. The lowest prices were in Kyiv and the highest were in Odessa. The quality of the computer sales people, assembly, testing of the equipment was highest in Kyiv.
In Lviv, I met with and worked with Alexander Saban of the Ukrainian Network or UARnet. The UARnet is a separately funded project from the United Nations Internet Project in Kyiv, although they have very close ties to each other and they consider each other to be part of the same part of the Internet system in Ukraine. Like, the Kyiv Freenet, the UARnet is based on the general principle that: it is intended for academic and research use. Use for profit, or reselling of services is not allowed. And unlike the Kyiv Freenet, the Lviv UARnet connections to the Internet are NOT free, although the cost is quite reasonable (ie $3 a month). But, the Lviv UARnet gives a wider variety of Internet applications such as Telnet and FTP functions. Presently, Internet traffic on the UARnet connects Lviv to the Kyiv Freenet though a high speed land line. A line from Kyiv to Kharkiv is, or is just about in service at this time. Later on, Kharkiv will be connected to Donetz and Kyiv will be connected to Odessa. From Lviv, the Internet traffic goes by satellite to Sweden, but this will soon be replaced by a high speed land line to Warsaw.
After giving all of the Kyiv-based organizations a brief one day introduction to the Internet at the Kyiv Mohyla Academy, I returned to Canada.
By Michael Kostiuk
These projects were necessary because the newly independent Ukraine lacked its own version of an academic and research computer network and the commercial INTERNET providers operating in Ukraine most often supplied expensive and undependable service. The commercial Internet providers also relied on a computer network that first passed through the Russian Federation. This was hold over from the former Soviet Union when all communication to the outside world first had to go through Moscow.
The Russian Federation requires INTERNET traffic that is carried on a computer network originating in Ukraine to pay for the service in "hard" currency. If a Ukrainian based commercial provider failed to pay these network charges on time, then the Internet traffic would often be delayed or worse, the information being transmitted would simply disappear. There was also a concern by some individuals that INTERNET traffic going to or from Ukraine through the Russian Federation might be viewed by security agencies in Russia.
These were some of the reasons why the United Nations Kyiv Freenet project and the UARnet came into being. These two projects while being funded from separate organizations both have a similar goal and philosophy of connecting Ukrainian institutions to the rest of the world via a Ukrainian controlled and operated Internet system.
Due to the small number of phones lines that are available for the Kyiv Freenet's dialup users, most of the INTERNET communication is done "Off-line". Kyiv freenet users can compose their electronic mail messages as well as postings to Usenet news groups using a special mailer program that is designed to operate on the Kyiv Freenet system. Then, when they are ready to send an INTERNET message, another program is used which automatically dials the Kyiv Freenet until a stable connection is established. Then, the user's name and password is sent to the Freenet operating system and afterwards all of the user's messages are uploaded and any messages that are addressed to the users are downloaded to their own computer. Once all of the electronic mail messages are completely sent, the Kyiv Freenet automatically disconnects the user and they are once again "off-line".
Depending on the quantity of electronic mail messages that are to be uploaded or downloaded from the Kyiv freenet and the transmission speed of the modem, the time which a user is connected "on-line" to the Kyiv freenet can be as low as one minute. The United Nations Internet project office provides software for "off-line" operation on the Kyiv Freenet for both IBM and Apple computer systems. The mailer software also operates in either English or Russian and the messages can be composed in English, Ukrainian or Russian. Since English is the most commonly used language on the INTERNET, most of the users choose to compose their messages in English. It is also more practical to compose electronic mail messages in English because messages that are composed in Ukrainian or Russian can only viewed by people who have the specialized software that is required to perform this task.
Currently, the UARnet has a direct line from Lviv to Kyiv with another line going from Kyiv to Kharkiv. There is also a direct line from Lviv to Kharkiv as well as a direct line from Kyiv to Donetz. The UARnet is connected to the INTERNET through a line that connects Lviv to Warsaw. INTERNET traffic to Europe then travels through the Polish network to the Europa Network in Vienna. INTERNET traffic to North America goes from Warsaw to the Nordunet in Stockholm via satellite and then it goes to a site in Virginia for North American distribution.
Like the Kyiv Freenet, the UARnet offers regular electronic mail service, but it also supplies other INTERNET applications such as FTP and TELNET with World Wide Web access to come in the near future. The UARnet also differs from the Kyiv Freenet in its approach to charging a user fee. A user of the UARnet is charged a basic fee of between three and five dollars $ US a month and a transmission charge of three cents a kilobyte. The administrators of the UARnet feel that since they offer more services than the Kyiv Freenet, then a user should reasonably expect to pay for these extra features. The UARnet offers the user either a dial-up method of connection or a direct line connection to its network. The dialup method is much cheaper and it is primarily for those people who only wnat to send and receive electronic mail messages. The direct line connection requires the installation of a permanently connected data/phone line that allows a user to set up their own INTERNET site. The direct line connection is most often used by large institutions that desire to connect their internal computer network to the INTERNET.
Despite the very poor quality of the telephone lines and switching stations in the former Soviet Union, the INTERNET connections worked remarkable well thanks in no small part to he use of the US Robotics Sportster modems. These are high quality, yet reasonably priced modems that are able to effective deal with the poor line quality of telephone lines that computer users in Ukraine must deal with.
I was also very impressed with the quality and expertise of the people working at the Kyiv Freenet and the Ukrainian Academic Research Network in Lviv. I wish to state my appreciation to Alexander Usenko and Rafal Rohozinski of the Kyiv Freenet and Alexander Saban of the UARnet for their assistance with the CSIH INTERNET project.
The establishment of the Kyiv Freenet and the UARnet has already made a change in the way many Ukrainian individuals and organizations communicate with the outside world. In addition to the Kyiv Freenet and the UARnet, there are also many commercial INTERNET providers that are being established to serve the needs of commercial and business users. Some of the commercial users are well established such as the INTERNET provider RELCOM while most of the others have just come upon the scene. The cheapest INTERNET provider appears to be GLASNET which has a basic charge of $US 25.00 a month. Glasnet is often used by private users and non governmental agencies.
Most of the commercial INTERNET providers still use the old telephone links through the Russian Federation and as has already been stated this is not the most desirable method of INTERNET transmission. I asked Alexander Saban of the UARnet whether there are any plans to have the commercial INTERNET providers contribute to the operation of the UARnet in exchange for the use of the network. Alexander said that this is an option that has not be resolved at this time. However, when the funding runs out for both the Kyiv Freenet and the UARnet, there may be no choice but to allow the commercial INTERNET providers access to the network to help cover its operating costs.
The INTERNET started out as an academic and research network in the west, but over time commercial users were allowed access to it if they also contributed to its growth. Just over a year ago, for the first time commercial users now represent over 50% of the INTERNET. As Ukraine emerges from the broken shell of the former Soviet Union, the problem of both operating and funding its own INTERNET system will be just one of many such problems that will need to be resolved. End of Article
In order to find out what people in Kyiv are using their Freenet system for I prepared and sent out a brief questionnaire to users that are registered on the Kyiv Freenet. The questionnaire was e-mailed to approximately 450 users on March 30, 1996. As of May 5, 43 people had responded to this questionnaire. The results: Question 1: How long have you been using the INTERNET? The average time a person has been using the INTERNET: 1.7 years. Question 2. What do you use the INTERNET for? Results indicate number of users responding with some being multiple responses: E-mail - 43 Research - 12 Access to freeware and shareware - 7 Usenet news - 6 Daily news reports - 6 List servers - 3 Gopher - 2 Teaching via the INTERNET - 1 Marketing - 1 Question 3 Is the INTERNET easy or difficult to use ? 34 said that the INTERNET was easy to use. 9 people said that they experienced varying degrees of difficulty with it. Question 4 Is the INTERNET expensive or affordable? 27 said that is was affordable 16 said that it was expensive(although these people were referring to private INTERNET service providers that they are or have used along with the Free United Nations INTERNET service. Question 5 What information/communication would you like to get from the INTERNET that you cannot get at this time ? On-line access- 11 World Wide Web - 9 Access Data bases - 6 Faster more reliable connection - 4 FTP - 4 Donít know - 4 Daily news reports - 3 Telnet - 2 Gopher - 2 WAIS - 2 Directory of e-mail addresses - 2 Access to University credit courses over the INTERNET - 2 Specific technical information - 2 Archie - 1 Specific Medical Journals - 1 Russian texts - 1 Nude pictures - 1. Why? Because this person has heard so many media reports of nude pictures on the net. The results obtained so far from the survey shows quickly information can be sent from Canada to Ukraine, to have it analysed, processed and then to be returned to the original person/organization. 34 of the 43 respondents replied that they found the Kyiv Freenet and the Internet be easy to use, while 9 said that they found some difficulty with it.
First posting April 1995.
Last update: November 4, 2007.