Open Forum to be held at NWPL

May 24, 2010

Open Forum to be held at NWPL

This Thursday, May 27, at 5:00pm, the Norman Williams Public Library will host a public forum regarding a potential local community WiFi system, called Wireless Woodstock. There appears to be a significant amount of public interest in this project – and the organizers have emphasized an open invitation – stressing that this event is clearly for more than just Village residents.

The project lead, Townsend Belisle, has noted that many questions will be addressed at the gathering – from concerns over access, maintenance, privacy or costs – to interest in advertising or extending the coverage area.  “We’ve had all sorts of queries,” Belisle noted.  “From ‘how many tax dollars will this take,’ (none, currently this is not a municipal system) to ‘how will this affect my cell phone service’ (not at all – cell phones use a different frequency range) to ‘does this compete with the ECFiber’ (it actually complements it).”

Belisle insists such a service is of equal interest to people who reside beyond the Village limits.  “The system is highly flexible and can grow as fast and as large as the community demands,” he said. As one example, the coverage area is not fixed. Residents of the Town (at the edge of the Village signal) could extend the range by buying a repeater for around $100.  Neighbors could even go in on one device together.

But while there is an obvious benefit to locals who would appreciate having free, open and fast internet access, the primary purpose of Wireless Woodstock is to generate a deeper interest in the Woodstock area for potential and already-curious visitors.

“I’m most interested in using this system to promote both business development and long term economic development,” said Belisle. “When the word gets out that ‘Woodstock is wireless’ there is a sizable, interested audience that will take a deeper look at who we are and the many benefits of vacationing, living, or working here.  Especially the Bostonians and New Yorkers – who now experience the fact that they can do their work from almost anywhere – they almost expect it.”  He went further to say the software inherent in the system would enable the community to monitor and measure its use.

To date, the idea has the support of many local interest groups.  But quite simply, not everyone understands the technology or what they can do to assist.  Hence, the forum is intended to educate the extended community regarding the features, benefits and logistics of such a free, broadband connection.  But the organizers have stressed they’d also like a two-way conversation – to gauge interest, support or challenge from everyone – since such a system would provide service to hundreds of constituents.

“Any person who could ever consider using Wireless Woodstock – for business or pleasure – is encouraged to attend this event as such a system would directly or indirectly affect local interaction,” Belisle added. “Please join us.”