WiFi Launch InvitationBENNINGTON, VT – On July 17th, from 7:00 pm to 7:30 pm, Bennington, Vermont, will celebrate its public downtown Wi-Fi zone, which is free for residents and visitors alike. The zone was funded, developed, and implemented by the Vermont Digital Economy Project and the Vermont Telecommunications Authority, with local support from the Town of Bennington and the Better Bennington Corporation.

The celebration will be part of “Midnight Madness,” during which downtown stores are open late and many have special discounts. The streets will be humming with activity, including live music on the Town Office Lawn. A cable-cutting ceremony, a photo-sharing activity, and an explanation of the zone’s uses will all take place on the Town Office Lawn at 7:00pm.

Downtown Wi-Fi zones have been one of the most sought-after services of the Vermont Digital Economy Project, which is part of the Vermont Council on Rural Development. Bennington was one of 25 towns to apply for and receive a grant. The coverage area of the Wi-Fi zone was later expanded thanks to an additional grant from the Vermont Telecommunications Authority’s Business Broadband Improvement District.

Now up and running, the Bennington Wi-Fi Zone, called “the Bennington Connection” is used by between 200 and 300 individuals a day, downloading around 16 GB of data a week.

“Bennington has considered the idea of public wifi for its downtown in previous years, however the cost has prevented the project from gaining traction,” said Michael Harrington, the town’s Economic and Community Development Director. “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.”

The Wi-Fi zone provides open and public access in downtown areas. People in the area can use the network to check their email, look up directions, or post to social media. When using the zone, visitors will navigate through a landing page, www.BenningtonVermont.org, where they will learn more about the activities and businesses in town. Access to the “Bennington Connection” is available up and down North and South Street, as well as east on Main Street.

“Bennington approached this project eagerly and with an open mind,” said Caitlin Lovegrove, the Network and Outreach Coordinator for the Vermont Digital Economy Project. “We’re happy to see that the zone is now getting used throughout the downtown area, providing yet another resource for keeping everyone in Bennington connected and engaged.”

While the zone is already active in the town, the event will be an opportunity to share the experience of an open and public Wi-Fi network, while simultaneously celebrating the community and local business owners of Bennington, Vermont. All are welcome to attend.

Another Wi-Fi zone launch will also take place next Wednesday, July 23, in Barre, Vermont.

About the Vermont Digital Economy Project

The Vermont Digital Economy Project was created to address vulnerabilities of Vermont business and communities that are not fully utilizing online tools. The project offers free support to speed flood recovery, spur economic development and job growth, and improve community resilience to disasters. The project is working directly with at least 25 of the towns that were affected by flooding to help businesses, nonprofits, and municipalities expand their innovative use of online tools. It is funded by a disaster recovery grant from the Economic Development Administration and from the donations and expertise of its partners (IBM, Microsoft, the Snelling Center for Government, the Vermont Department of Libraries, the Vermont Small Business Development Center, and the Vermont State Colleges) to provide grant services. More information can be found online at: www.vtdigitaleconomy.org.

About the Vermont Telecommunications Authority

The VTA supports broadband internet and cellular service expansion in unserved areas of Vermont. That is accomplished by building infrastructure and by making grants to telecommunications companies. The Business Broadband Improvement initiative is made possible by a legislative appropriation that recognizes the importance of Internet connections to Vermont’s business community.