The public WiFi zone was one of the projects funded under Dover’s E-Vermont grant. The grant also provided 35 netbooks for Dover School students, training for teachers and students, and computer workshops for residents and business owners. E-Vermont funded the purchase of the system hardware, which includes several wireless repeaters that are installed on the side of buildings along the zone, as well as the services of an engineer to help determine the best locations for the repeaters. The grant package also included the creation of a “splash page” that comes up when users first log on, and a custom webpage for Dover.
Currently, the WiFi zone extends along Route 100 from the town office building to Chadwick’s convenience store, but the town plans to extend the service farther north. “The next thing we’re going to do is work south along Route 100 from First Trax (in Mountain Park Plaza),” said Dover Economic Development Specialist Ken Black. “We haven’t decided on the repeater locations. That will depend on topography and landscaping. WiFi signals don’t go through trees very well.”
While some of the Valley Trail is covered by the existing system, Black says another goal is to reach more of the “B section” of trail that runs along Route 100. Anyone can log onto the system, but it’s not intended to replace anyone’s home or business Internet access. The system’s capacity and speed are limited, and the splash page includes a disclaimer asking users not to upload or download large files. “There’s also a 30-minute time limit,” Black notes.
For the town, the wireless zone is a tremendous marketing and economic development opportunity. “The purpose of the WiFi zone is to give visitors and guests on the Route 100 corridor limited access to the Internet to find out what’s going on in the town of Dover, or find a place to eat,” Black explains. “But they’ll also be able to take a look at the news and get a stock quote if they want.”
The webpage that was created for the zone, www.disoverdovervt.com, has become the town’s business and marketing site. The business listings that had been on the town’s municipal website have been moved to the new site. Soon, Black says, signs will be going up in shops along the WiFi zone to let visitors know about the free WiFi access. As more people start using it, Black thinks Dover businesses will have more “buy in,” and will begin to improve and expand their listings. “We’re going to keep adding to the site, and it will continue to evolve,” Black said. “We’ll include events and as much information as we can, in cooperation with businesses.”
If Internet access and web presence are the keys to economic development in the 21st century, Dover may have opened up new opportunities for their business community.