WiWo Begins Phase Two

November 19, 2010

WiWo Begins Phase Two

Wireless Woodstock, the free community wireless service provided by Norman Williams Public Library, has successfully completed Phase One and has begun Phase Two expansion to cover most of Woodstock Village. This initiative is one of the most innovative community development programs in the country – the first community supported wireless service in Vermont and one of about five in the United States.

Initial Phase Two elements are expected to be completed in time for the annual Wassail Weekend and include the installation of additional access points, increasing the wireless coverage area by 40%, and the launch of the Wireless Woodstock home page.

The Norman Williams Public Library board has named a diverse ten-person oversight committee with members representing different segments of the Woodstock community. At their last meeting, committee members approved the content and layout of the Wireless Woodstock website, which will include valuable information and resources for both locals and visitors.

The homepage will showcase current events, entertainment, and things to do, as well as places to eat, shop, and stay. The Vermont Standard will provide ongoing updates of local news, and the homepage will also provide a venue for local officials to post information such as school closings or traffic alerts. Links to additional resources will provide important information to visitors, such as the location of the public rest rooms, as well as more detailed information for those interested in relocating their family or business to Woodstock.

“Our goal is to make the Wireless Woodstock home page a virtual “Town Crier” for Woodstock” said Townsend Belisle, who originally conceived the village-wide wifi service.

And the word on Wireless Woodstock is getting out. Over the warmer months it was common to see someone on a bench on The Green checking email. Now that cooler weather is here, more often you’ll find the occupant of a car parked by The Green working on a laptop or iPad. A guest at a local inn emailed Wireless Woodstock and expressed delight at being able to access the community wifi service, and a Barnard resident reports regular trips to Woodstock to take advantage of free broadband internet, as her work requires her to regularly download large files, a near impossibility on her dial-up connection.

Wireless Woodstock has also piqued the interest of several other Vermont libraries interested in developing similar initiatives. Representatives of those libraries and the e-Vermont Community Broadband Project are meeting in Woodstock on December 6th to better understand the Wireless Woodstock model.

In addition to the more obvious benefits of free wireless internet access, Wireless Woodstock also has the ability to change perceptions. A part-time Woodstock resident of more than 10 years mentioned that when her family made their frequent visits Woodstock, her children would tell their friends that they were “…going to Amish country.” Wireless Woodstock turns that notion on its head and makes a statement about the community’s vision. To a motorist traveling through Woodstock, an alert on their smartphone notifying them of a free wifi connection informs them that Woodstock is even more than the Prettiest Town in America. It’s a savvy, forward-thinking place, a great place to live, raise a family, and start or move a business.

The one-time cost to build free wireless internet service to most of Woodstock Village is $35,000, an investment that will reap returns for years to come. The ongoing maintenance cost is minimal and will be paid for by paid sponsorship recognition on the Wireless Woodstock website.

One of Wireless Woodstock’s goals is to make this a community-supported service, and as such the oversight committee is limiting its request for financial support to local businesses and individuals through December 31, 2010.

If sufficient funds are not raised locally by that time, the group will look to foundation and corporate support. “The oversight committee feels that Wireless Woodstock, particularly with the demographic profile of the audience it serves, will be attractive to a large regional or national company, but we hope we can support this entirely from the community” said Wireless Woodstock committee member Larry Perry. All donations are tax deductible through the Norman Williams Public Library.

Donors will be acknowledged on the Wireless Woodstock website. Pledges of support can be made at the Norman Williams Public Library or emailing the Wireless Woodstock oversight committee at [email protected].