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Town looks at creating wi-fi ‘hot spot’ at Broad Brook Grange

GUILFORD—The Selectboard said it is on the fence about whether to invest in a public Internet wireless “hotspot” at Broad Brook Grange, and are curious to know whether the Grange would be interested in hosting such a device.

According to Town Administrator Katie Buckley, speaking at the Oct. 28 Selectboard meeting, the Grange would be a logical place to offer such a community service.

“I think if it were a service people knew was available to them, you might see them use it. It would be available at the Grange, during public meetings, on election days, anytime the town uses the building, or there’s something happening at the Grange,” she said.

For that matter, it would be on 24 hours a day, seven days a week, she suggested, and would be available to passersby.

Installation would be a free service of the Vermont Council on Rural Development, which in a visit considered several sites in Guilford and the Village of Algiers before recommending the Grange, Buckley said.

The town would be liable for a monthly bill, though the Selectboard said businesses might want to sponsor the offering on the Wi-Fi signal’s “splash page,” as happens with town Wi-Fi in Bethel.

Options are through Comcast at $110 per month for 50 megabytes (Mbps) per second or $70 per month for 6 Mbps, or through Fairpoint Communications at $40 a month for 1.6 Mbps. The town’s commitment would be an estimated $1,200 per year, Buckley said.

Board Chair Richard Clark said relying on businesses to support the offering “scared” him.

“First and foremost, you’d have to have approval from the Grange,” he said, then volunteered Buckley to present the idea at the Grange’s Nov. 7 meeting.

Board member Anne Rider said expanding access to the Internet this way is “an interesting concept. It’s a chunk of money, in a way ... you want to be sure that’s a service that’s really got value.”

Broad Brook Grange, on Guilford Center Road in Guilford Center, was built in the 1880s and is the town’s local gathering hall. It is an emergency shelter, polling place for general elections, headquarters for Green Up Day, and holds many events throughout the year.

Broad Brook Grange, which meets on the first Thursday of each month at 7 p.m., is near the Guilford Public Library, which also offers public wireless Internet, though the Selectboard agreed the range was very limited.

Buckley noted the idea came about after Guilford applied for website development help from the Vermont Digital Economy Project. The project is run through the Vermont Council on Rural Development, which says on its website that it helps Vermonters and Vermont communities develop their capacity to create a prosperous and sustainable future through coordination, collaboration, and the effective use of public and private resources.

“Let’s say there are people staying at the B&B over in Green River, and they’re like, ‘I really need Wi-Fi.’ Well, you can just take your laptop and just park at the Grange and use it there,” Buckley said.

She added that the Vermont Council on Rural Development’s consultant noted that with public Wi-Fi, the Grange could be used more as a community building, “and this would provide the foundation.”

She also proposed canceling the town office’s third phone line to help pay for the service.

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Originally published in The Commons issue #228 (Wednesday, November 6, 2013). This story appeared on page A7.

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