BETHEL, VT – The town of Bethel, Vermont, will be celebrating the arrival of a free and public downtown Wi-Fi zone called “The Bethel Connection” at a launch event on Thursday, June 20th starting at 5pm, with speeches at 6pm at the Bethel Town Hall.
The opening of the Wi-Fi zone will feature speeches from local business owners and state representatives. There will also be a photo-posting activity to showcase the power of free public internet and light refreshments.
This Wi-Fi zone is one of a number of services that the Town of Bethel is receiving from the Vermont Digital Economy Project. The project, run by the Vermont Council on Rural Development, has also been working with Bethel businesses and nonprofits to provide free workshops and advising, among other services.
Bethel was selected as one of the first towns to receive intensive service delivery from the Vermont Digital Economy Project, due to the high amounts of damage it suffered during Tropical Storm Irene. “Our grant is creating disaster resilience and bolstering economic development by promoting the use of various digital tools,” said Sharon Combes-Farr, the project’s director. “Bethel’s impact from Irene was nothing short of devastating and we are excited to create lasting positive changes here with our federal disaster relief grant.”
The Wi-Fi zone installation and equipment will be paid for by the Digital Economy Project, but the town still needed to find a sponsor to secure an ongoing monthly Internet connection. That’s where the Bethel Business Association (BBA) came in. “By mobilizing local businesses towards a single organization, we have always worked to improve the town’s economic stance,” said Neal Fox, chairman of the BBA, “Sponsoring the Town’s free public Wi-Fi zone therefore seemed like a logical step for the BBA, since it will signal Bethel’s willingness to be forward thinking and technologically capable.”
Thanks to the BBA and the Town’s Managers, anybody in the town of Bethel will be able to log onto the Town’s free public internet throughout Bethel’s downtown. Tourists and visitors will find the zone helpful, as well. When they log onto “The Bethel Connection,” they will be redirected to a page that lists out activities and places to stay and eat in the town. Not all of Bethel’s businesses have a presence on its downtown strip, so the zone and its landing page (thebethelconnection.org) will also serve to provide listings for businesses beyond the area of free Internet.
“We believe that access to the Internet is becoming essential in today’s modern world,” said Caitlin Lovegrove, who project managed the Wi-Fi zone’s implementation, “and this free access throughout the downtown area will help Bethel to bridge the digital divide between those who have that access and those who do not.”
“We’re excited to showcase this project,” said Abbie Sherman, the Assistant Town Manager, “and we believe this Wi-Fi zone will help others see what a great town Bethel is.”
The zone is one of more than a dozen that the Vermont Digital Economy Project is planning to install over the next year. Royalton, Vermont, recently had its own launch event on Thursday, June 13.
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: http://vtdigitaleconomy.org/.
About the Bethel Business Association
The Bethel Business Association (BBA) was formed with the goal of improving Bethel’s business climate. In its history, the BBA has been directly or indirectly responsible for the creation of the downtown public parking lot, improving communications between local businesses and town government, general beautification and cleanup of the town, including the creation of Peavine Park, and adding welcome signs at all major entrances to the town. It is now sponsoring the downtown Wi-Fi zone.