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January 21, 2022

Farewell to visionary, Ian Peter

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Ian Peter 9.6.1948 – 26.12.2021

Ian Peter.

Local visionary, environmental activist and a pioneer founder of Australia’s first public internet service, Pegasus Networks, Ian Peter, has died in Byron Bay aged 73, just a few weeks after a diagnosis of invasive cancer.

Passionate about communication and the environment, Ian is remembered by friends the world over for his boyish enthusiasm, motivation and vision for a better world.

He is also remembered fondly for his friendly, helpful and optimistic nature – Ian was a man motivated by love for his family, friends and the forests he fought to protect.

Sydney-born Ian studied at North Sydney Boys High and the Sydney Conservatorium of Music before launching into a career as a trumpeter, playing with many bands and orchestras. In his later years, Ian was known to travel with a guitar during which time his evening soirees were often more remembered than the international conferences Ian had been invited to speak at.

Ian transitioned into concert management and worked on the opening of the Sydney Opera House, the diplomatic coup of the first-ever tour of a Chinese Symphony Orchestra to Australia, and the Backstage Pass Album with  The Little River Band among many other gigs.

A move to the north coast

He moved to the North Coast of NSW in the early ‘80s to run 2NCR radio station.

After discovering the few remaining forests of Northern NSW that had become a source for much inspiration were to be logged, Ian became involved with the Rainforest Information Centre (RIC). It was here that he saw the need to empower both local, regional and international community groups working on similar issues to connect with each other, share information and coordinate. Ian was excited about the possibility of internet connectivity as a tool to link non-government organisations and social change groups right around the world. Such was his enthusiasm that RIC began using email as early as 1985.

In September 1989 Pegasus Networks, considered the first public access internet provider in Australia, was born. It was launched in the rainforest at Terania Creek with a laptop, solar-powered van, and modem connected to a cellular phone.

Ian joined an embryonic collective of people and organisations around the world creating a computer network that by 1992 had users in 72 countries, far more than the internet did at that time. This was the Association for Progressive Communications (www.apc.org), of which Ian was a founding director in 1990.

Pegasus at the Epicentre

By late 1989 Pegasus Networks set up an office in the former whaling station and abattoir, the Epicentre, in Byron Bay, from which it provided thousands of Australians with their first email addresses. Pegasus moved to Brisbane in 1992 before being sold to Optus in 1997.

After Pegasus, Ian established a consultancy business (IP Everywhere) to address a growing interest in the internet and new technologies. In this capacity, he worked for the United Nations, with NGOs and not-for-profit organisations around the world, as well as, being a consultant for the Commonwealth and Queensland Governments of the day.

In later years, Ian travelled extensively as both a consultant, mentor and internet historian within government and non-government sectors. Ian was a co-coordinator of the international Internet Governance Caucus and the first Chair of the Civil Society Coordination Group – a coalition of coalitions involved in internet governance issues.

He was known both for mentoring diplomats on said issues and as a champion of consensus building within civil community spaces often auspiced by the United Nations.

Always improving the internet

Ian was never far from the organisations and events that sought to improve internet access and governance. Even since moving into semi-retirement a few years ago to focus more on his edible garden, and playing music, Ian maintained an enduring relationship with the Association for Progressive Communications, guest lecturing with the Diplo Foundation in Geneva on emerging internet issues and raising concerns about specific social media platforms.

Ian focused on the broader, more complex governance issues despite the harrowing conditions within the international internet arena and the human rights concerns raised there.

It is no surprise that Ian’s last post on Facebook linked to an article warning of the platforms’ relentless data harvesting.

Ian’s light, and his love, shine on through all the people he motivated, mentored and inspired the world over.

Ian is survived by his loving wife Sue and stepson Sam, his first wife Rosanne and children Sean, Jodie and Brett, siblings Margaret, Lynne and Dave, and his six grandchildren all of whom he spoke of with love and profound affection.

There will be a celebration of Ian’s life for friends to attend at Broken Head, at a date to be announced.

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