Our goal, through the Vermont Digital Economy Project, is to help Vermonters use and understand digital tools better. We know that the more technologically capable Vermonters are, the more resilient they will be in the event of another disaster. In the meantime, they will be able to use these tools to help spur economic development, whether it’s by advertising a small local business, improving the visibility of a local nonprofit, or simply becoming more capable at navigating the internet.
Part of what makes our project so relevant is that the state of Vermont has a goal of bringing broadband to every household in Vermont. Our job is to help make this a real benefit to the people who will have access to this internet, and to increase overall access, for instance through public Wi-Fi zones.
The Vermont Telecommunications Authority (VTA), whose mission is “to ensure residences and business in all regions of the state have access to affordable broadband, mobile voice and data communications,” has recently announced a new initiative to support Business Broadband Improvement Districts. The creation of these districts will work hand in hand with what we are doing through the Vermont Digital Economy Project.
“The VTA’s focus remains on supporting the goal of reaching every home and business of Vermont with broadband Internet,” said Chris Campbell, the Executive Director of the VTA, “We’re very happy to report that projects are in process across the state through state, federal and private capital funding. The legislature set a second goal of supporting business districts that need upgraded broadband services. We’ve developed this initiative to bring together communities and businesses to develop new opportunities for economic vitality.”
Through this initiative, business districts in Vermont will be able to receive support in a number of different forms, one of which could include a downtown Wi-Fi zone, similar to the Wi-Fi zones implemented under e-Vermont and the Vermont Digital Economy Project.
“The Vermont Center for Rural Development has led the way in establishing successful Wi-Fi zones or hotspots,” said Campbell, “The VTA has committed up to $200,000 for Wi-Fi infrastructure in this initiative. It’s an important tool.”
Fortunately, these two forms of Wi-Fi zone implementation can work together. Currently, the Vermont Digital Economy project is pledging between two and four Access Points per town, depending on the size and layout of a downtown area. Thanks to the VTA’s new initiative, towns who wish to expand their downtown zones beyond what is being created through the Vermont Digital Economy Project, can apply for this expansion through the VTA.
If a town is interested in applying to become one of the VTA’s Business Broadband Improvement Districts, it can find more information here. The deadline for asking questions about the application is August 19th, and application must be submitted by September 18th.