New Internet service technologies for rural areas are making expanded, affordable broadband possible, but any service still needs a minimum number of customers to be viable. In the winter of 2002, the Vermont Council on Rural Development (VCRD) and the Northeast Kingdom Collaborative sponsored a study of the use of the Internet by businesses and residents in northeastern Vermont. While the use of the Internet was high, even in the most rural areas, the smaller communities were frustrated by a lack of affordable high speed Internet access.
The goal of our Vermont Rural Broadband Project, led by Al and Laura Duey of Burke, was to connect individuals who need service with local community groups working to bring service to their area. The solution for each community can be different – from encouraging national providers to extend existing services to encouraging small local providers to service a new area, to helping towns create their own service. In all cases, the projects start by connecting with local residents and businesses that want broadband service.
The Vermont Rural Broadband Project has provided consultation services to over 50 Vermont communities, helping many of them access and aggregate their demand and negotiate with potential providers to draw services. Click HERE for a list of broadband projects in communities across Vermont.
The effort also worked to help small businesses, tourists and local residents in the Northeast Kingdom gain access to broadband by building a series of WiFi hotspots throughout the region. In 2009 and beyond, this work carries on with the Northeast Kingdom Travel and Tourism Association at the helm as they take over the maintenance and expansion of the network.
Internet Biz-2010 Contest
In 2010, in partnership with the Vermont Small Business Development Center, we organized the “Internet Biz-2010 Contest” to stimulate increased use of the Internet by small businesses in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom. We provided educational training and resources to scores of Northeast Kingdom businesses and cash and services to contest awardees to help them use the Internet to build and grow their businesses.