BENNINGTON -- The town's annual Midnight Madness event will coincide with a celebration of the recent Wi-Fi project completed in the downtown.
As part of the festivities, Economic and Community Developer Michael Harrington said at 5 p.m. tonight at the Town Office, 205 South St., the Hill Hollow Band will be playing, and at 7 p.m. there will be a brief interlude where a cable-cutting ceremony will be held and cake served.
Midnight Madness is an event during which downtown businesses extend their hours into the evening and run sales events.
The Wi-Fi project, made possible by the Vermont Digital Economy Project and the Vermont Telecommunications Authority provides free wireless Internet access to most of Bennington's downtown. Harrington said nine access points were installed inside certain businesses to create the Wi-Fi zone.
On Main Street, the zone extends 300 feet beyond Oldcastle Theater to the west and the same distance past Ramunto's Brick Oven Pizza to the east. On Route 7, it's 300 feet past the Clip Shop to the north and the Better Bennington Corporation to the south.
The Wi-Fi has been up and running since May.
The businesses were not charged, Harrington said, and each one that participated was listed on the Wi-Fi's landing page, www.BenningtonVermont.org, which also includes links to the Town Office, Bennington Area Chamber of Commerce, the Banner, and a Google map of the area. Harrington said it's designed to help guide visitors around the area. The original plan was for less hubs, but with help from the Vermont Telecommunications Authority the scope was doubled.
He said there was no cost to the town, but in five years it will be asked to pay $150 per hub, which will cover costs for another five years.
Harrington said he has administrative control over the network, and can tell how many devices have accessed it and what kind of web service they are using be it video streaming or web surfing. It does not show what sites are being looked at, he said, and is Payment Card Industry (PCI) compliant.
Called "The Bennington Connection," the service is used by about 250 people per say, Harrington said, which includes laptops and mobile phones.
"Bennington has considered the idea of public Wi-Fi for its downtown in previous years, however the cost has prevented the project from gaining traction," said Harrington in a release. "Only recently when the Town adopted its economic development plan, and VCRD announced their Digital Economy Project, were we able to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
The Vermont Digital Economy Project allowed us to get the project off the ground and the recent collaboration with VTA will ensure that the finished project covers a majority of our downtown business center. We are very pleased with the project."
Contact Keith Whitcomb Jr. at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @KWhitcombjr.