(First appeared in the July 29th edition of the Vermont Standard)
By Gwen Stanley
Over seventy people crowded in front of Norman Williams Public Library Wednesday morning as Governor Jim Douglas made an appearance to officially kick off the town’s wireless system.
“Wireless Woodstock,” which has been many months in the planning, will provide a free, community-based wireless system – the first such successful project in the state. Repeaters, which are said to be virtually weatherproof, were installed Monday at the Phase One “action points.” The main connection is broadcast from Norman Williams Public Library and the three repeaters are located on the rooftops of Unicorn, Bentleys and the Windsor County Courthouse.
The idea for Wireless Woodstock was initiated by Townsend Belisle of Haystack Digital, who received support from the town’s Economic Development Commission.
The system will be owned and managed by the library, and the first phase of the project covers the Green and the nearby village center near Elm Street. Phase Two of the plan, which organizers hope to begin after Columbus Day, will encompass the entire village.
The library functions as the center of the system, since the wireless signal originates with the library’s wi-fi. The signal then travels through repeaters, which are about the size of a large shoe.
The landing page of the system (www.wirelesswoodstock.info) will function as a community information spot, since it offers the ability to post local information and act in tandem with emergency services.
Jack McGuire, chair of the board of Norman Williams Public Library, spoke at the ceremony thanking those community members, businesses and groups that have participated, and noted that for the project to continue to succeed, more participation will be necessary.
Governor Douglas spoke about the need for Vermont to use this sort of technology to its advantage, in order to stay strong economically and to encourage job growth. He pointed out that a fast and free Internet connection is a boon to residents in almost any job in the town.
“Woodstock can be at the cutting edge of communication,” said McGuire.
McGuire pointed out that the system will be managed and directed by the whole community, rather than just the library. An oversight committee has been set up to deal with policy and rules for the system, raising money for the maintenance and promotion.
“My guess is that we’ll have two or three meetings to get it set up, and then it’ll be once a quarter and a series of phone calls,” McGuire said of the committee. “Pretty intense for now and then not so much for a while,” he said. “But we’ll need to keep things moving along.”
McGuire said that the Library wants to be clear that this wireless system is something that any other town could do, and wants to help towns who are interested.
“We’d be more than willing to share our insights,” he said. McGuire said that the system can actually be expanded beyond the villages and interested groups may be may be granted no-cost rights to extend the service.