Almost exactly one year ago, in June 2013, the Vermont Digital Economy Project launched its first Wi-Fi zone in South Royalton, VT.
Now, in June 2014, we have a lot to show for the past year’s work. On Thursday, June 19, we launched our Wi-Fi zone in Cambridge VT with cake, music, and a cable cutting ceremony. Cambridge marks the fourteenth zone that we have completed, along with nine smaller individual “hotspot” locations.
In Cambridge, our event was held in conjunction with an event entitled “An Evening on Main Street,” sponsored by the Cambridge Artists and Entrepreneurs (CAE). Attendees explored local businesses, and got their “business passports” stamped to be entered in a raffle for a free family portrait session with local photographer and CAE member Kim Martin.
While speaking at the cable cutting ceremony (cutting a cable, in this instance, seemed more appropriate than cutting a ribbon!) Laurie Cartwright, who works at the Farm Store (a business on Main Street), explained how the Wi-Fi was already helping her interact with clients. “We get people coming into our store who can’t get any service on their phones,” she said, “and I tell them about the free Wi-Fi.” The patrons are happy to have the option of loading a map for directions, or of checking their email. They also then feel like they have more time to be able to stay in Jeffersonville a little longer.
Kim Martin was also pleased with the new zone. “I like to meet potential clients at local establishments,” she explained, “but it’s hard for me to show them my portfolio, or to get the information I need without internet. Now, I can meet them at 158 Main Restaurant and Bakery, and get online on ‘the Cambridge Connection.’”
The benefits continue to take shape at some of the towns we have already launched as well. The Wi-Fi zone in Bethel has been running for over a year now, and recently, one Vermonter who grew up in the town returned home to discover “the Bethel Connection.” “Pretty handy,” he posted to his Facebook wall, while showcasing the local business listing and landing page at thebethelconnection.org.
We’re excited to continue to implement these zones. A zone in St. Albans Town, in the Bay Park, has recently been completed, and is getting more and more use as visitors and residents alike begin to enjoy the summer months in the park.
In addition to those that have recently been completed, a Wi-Fi zone in Barre is nearing completion, as is a zone, funded by the Vermont Telecommunications Authority (VTA) and managed by the Vermont Council on Rural Development in Windsor. Both should be completed by the end of July.
In the meantime, we will be celebrating another completed zone, in Waterbury, next Thursday, June 26. Join us for a “cable cutting” ceremony, and stay afterwards for the free music in Rusty Parker Park!