Wi-Fi in Downtown Windsor
Free Network Will Cover Center of Town
Jeff Rowland of Windsor, Vt., uses the Internet on his laptop at Windsor Public Library on April 29, 2014. "I come here a lot," said Rowland, who doesn't have Internet service at home. (Valley News - Will Parson) Purchase photo reprints »
Refurbished computers for sale line a display window at WinCycle in downtown Windsor, Vt., on April 29, 2014. (Valley News - Will Parson) Purchase photo reprints »
Windsor — A student sitting on a bench doing homework on a laptop.
A businessman enjoying lunch outside a cafe while surfing the web on a tablet computer.
A tourist scanning the Internet on a smartphone while navigating downtown streets.
These are the scenes envisioned for downtown Windsor when a Wi-Fi zone is established there this summer. The zone would provide free wireless Internet access to anyone inside an eight-acre radius, said Zoning Administrator Bob Haight.
The Wi-Fi zone is intended to help residents, businesses and visitors alike stay connected.
“People can come into town and just sit down,” said Haight. “This will make accessing the Internet more available in Windsor.”
The approximate boundary of the Wi-Fi zone runs north and south along Main Street beginning near Old South Church and extends to People’s United Bank. The boundary also stretches east to west from behind the Windsor Public Library to past the Windsor Town Welcome Center.
Business owners with store fronts that are positioned in the wireless zone are excited about the prospects of a seamless Internet connection.
“I think it is fantastic. That makes every place you go in downtown Windsor a web cafe,” said Dean Hare, the Apple technician at WinCycle, a computer reseller on Main Street. “When people come down in this direction they won’t feel like they are off the grid. It is great for Windsor. ”
Karen Husband, the owner of Boston Dreams, a sports gallery and coffee house on State Street, concurred.
“Whatever else we can do to help Windsor is huge,” Husband said. “I think it is great.”
The town qualified for state funding through the Vermont Telecommunications Authority to cover management services and equipment and installation costs for the project.
The total cost is roughly $13,250, Christopher Campbell, Vermont Telecommunications Authority’s executive director, wrote in an email.
“Establishing a Wi-Fi zone is a cost-effective way to improve the downtown business environment and contributes (to) creating a vibrant community center,” Campbell wrote.
The state Telecommunications Authority, which was first established to help improve broadband Internet access in unserved and underserved areas, also will help Wilmington, Vt., Waterbury, Vt., and Bennington, Vt., expand existing Wi-Fi zones through its Business Broadband Improvement Districts initiative .
Vermont Digital Economy Project workers, who were hired-on to manage the project, will work with local business owners over the next several weeks to determine where to install five wireless access points, which are small boxes with antennas that allow devices to connect to the Internet, said Caitlin Lovegrove, the network and outreach coordinator for the Vermont Digital Economy Project, which was created by the Vermont Council on Rural Development to help communities bounce-back after Tropical Storm Irene.
Once the locations for the access points are selected, workers will install the necessary equipment and get the network up and running. The project could be completed by the end of July, Lovegrove said.
The wireless Internet will be a secure and safe system, she said, noting that it will be “very difficult to hack.”
The system will also have restrictions to make sure it isn’t being abused, though those limitations are still being worked out.
“The idea is not to replace a residential connection or business’ connection,” Lovegrove said. “It is to help visitors have that connectivity and for any residents who really can’t afford to have a connection. ... Residents often come into town and park in front of a closed library. This expands that zone.”
When an individual searches for a Wi-Fi signal through an electronic device, such as a laptop or tablet, the town’s network will pop up and ask the person to log in. A benefit of the system is that it will reroute the individual to the town’s webpage, which will showcase area businesses and attractions.
“People coming in get a little bit of Windsor related information and are able to see what businesses there are,” said Haight, who doubles as the manager for the town’s downtown district.
Other restrictions that could be placed on the town’s Wi-Fi connection include a time-out window that would kick an individual out of the system after a certain period of time to discourage constant streaming of movies or TV shows. Other limitations could include blocking certain websites and slowing down the Internet connection speed for particular sites.
“We set it up in a way that we feel is fit,” Lovegrove said. “But the towns can change (the settings).”
Haight said the push to get Wi-Fi throughout the downtown was a no brainier.
“The general attitude has been that if there is even a chance that it will help businesses, let’s go for it,” Haight said. “I just don’t see a negative to this at all.”
Jordan Cuddemi can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 603-727-3248.