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E-Vermont grant at work in Moretown

Members of the Moretown Connects Broadband Steering Committee met with the town's e-Vermont community director Sean Sheehan for the first time January 21 to discuss e-Vermont projects that will likely begin this May and June.

The town was awarded an e-Vermont grant that will result in a new website for the town, among other technological upgrades. Moretown is among 12 rural communities to receive the e-Vermont Community Broadband Project grant.

The steering committee is working to coordinate a public forum in March or April that will include the seven project partners and outlines of various projects; the forum is open to the public and residents are encouraged to participate and contribute ideas.

According to minutes from the January 21 meeting, "Partners who will attend the forum will include representatives from the Snelling Center for Government and the Vermont Department of Libraries. Break-out groups will form and then re-assemble to share their ideas with the group and formulate a project list."

While many of the projects won't get underway until spring, the town is already using Front Porch Forum, an online email-based newsletter that allows residents to sign up to receive and exchange information.

Residents can join by visiting www.Frontporchforum.com and entering a street address from within the service area that Moretown is now included in. 

Additional projects identified so far, according to the meeting minutes, include design services for the town and school websites. "Digital Wish" will also work with the school to familiarize themselves with the new netbooks they will receive.

Sheehan said, "The Digital Wish staff is particularly excited by the school's plans to digitize town oral history projects."

As an e-Vermont town, Moretown will also be eligible for mini grants and assistance developing a wifi hotspot in the village. Sheehan said that Moretown could expect assistance with expenses for developing wifi coverage (up to $5,000).

According to the minutes, internet connection fees and repeated replacements would become the responsibility of the town but could be sponsored by local businesses.

The e-Vermont grant funding provides towns with consultants to address potential technological upgrades; websites can be document-based so town employees are able to update content while the site would be controlled and backed up by a third party.

Workshops and training will be provided to residents and business owners by the Vermont Small Business Development Center and Vermont State Colleges, to address business development, social networking, basic computer skills and computer training for seniors.

The e-Vermont Community Broadband Project is supported by a $2.5 million stimulus grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce with additional support from Vermont philanthropists, corporations and organizational partners (a full list can be found at www.e4vt.org).

The e-Vermont program is one of the few national broadband adoption initiatives focused on rural needs and it is being viewed as a national model. These towns are among the first to explore how the internet can be harnessed as a tool for community development.

Visit www.e4vt.org for more information.

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