SOUTH ROYALTON, VT – After weeks of preparation, decision-making and community involvement, the town of Royalton will kick off its brand new free public Wi-Fi zone on the Royalton green on Thursday, June 13, at 3pm, in conjunction with BALE fest.
The launch event will feature speakers from the town of Royalton, the Vermont Council on Rural Development, the Vermont Telecommunications Authority, and others. It will also include an online activity based around photos taken on the day.
The Wi-Fi zone is part of a number of services that the Vermont Digital Economy Project is offering Royalton, along with free business and nonprofit consulting, one-on-one advising, and assistance with Royalton’s municipal website.
Rose Hemond, the Town of Royalton’s Administration and Finance Manager applied for these services on behalf of the town in March, and was excited to receive an email from Sharon Combes-Farr, the project’s director, saying that Royalton had been selected as one of the first towns to receive them. “Royalton was highly impacted by Tropical Storm Irene and these free services will certainly help our town to communicate more effectively,” said Hemond.
The community chipped in to help support this installation. Tom Powers, a local landlord, donated space in his building for a cable and equipment, and the town’s selectboard voted to allow more equipment to be installed on the town green. Local businesses and nonprofits are excited about the free Wi-Fi as well. “It shows a great step forward for the town to offer such a service,” said Chris Wood, who works for BALE, whose offices face the green. “We are excited that free Wi-Fi will strengthen the businesses and sense of community in the downtown area.”
The Vermont Council on Rural Development created the Digital Economy Project’s Wi-Fi zone service for a number of reasons. “Wi-Fi zones not only promote tourism and highlight a town’s ability to be forward-thinking and modern,” said Caitlin Lovegrove, who is tasked with helping to implement these zones, “but they can also be used in an emergency.
“When we first met with Royalton, we learned that people were congregating on the green after Irene, but had no source of reliable information. The system we use to implement a Wi-Fi zone allows for a landing page that is easy to update. In an emergency, the latest information can be seen by anybody who chooses to use the free internet connection that is now available on the town green. They will be automatically redirected to a website with information.”
When there is no emergency, this landing page (royaltonconnection.org) will be used to showcase local businesses and to promote town news.
Paul Costello, Executive Director of the Vermont Council on Rural Development, is pleased that this zone is being implemented. “Royalton is a dynamic small village where people need to be connected. Tourists, students and local folks can now connect to the whole world from the center of one of Vermont’s most charming downtowns,” he said.
The zone is one of more than a dozen that the Vermont Digital Economy Project is planning to install over the next year. Bethel, Vermont, will be launching its own zone with an event on June 20th.
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: https://www.vtrural.org/past-initiatives/digital-economy/
BALE – Building A Local Economy – is an organizing resource and community resource center for the local economy for the White River Valley of Vermont. Its focus is on supporting and maintaining local economy initiatives in order to maintain long-term resilience within the community. BALE fest is a celebration of all things local.