The 2nd Annual Southern Vermont Connectivity Summit, held at Mount Snow on November 30th, was buzzing with energy and collaboration. In attendance were representatives from 15 towns interested in improving connectivity for their residents and businesses. The Summit, hosted by the Brattleboro Development Credit Corporation’s Southern Vermont Economy Project (SVEP), featured information from three national providers and six community led initiatives. Representatives were also in attendance from VELCO, USDA Rural Development, Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Development, Vermont Department of Public Service, Bennington County Regional Commission, Windham Regional Commission, Senator Sander’s office, Brattleboro Development Credit Corporation, and Bennington County Industrial Corporation.
“We wanted to bring towns together to discuss how to get organized and learn from what others have already done,” stated Sarah Lang, Southern Vermont Economy Project manager. “We’ve realized two important things: first, if anything is going to change, towns will have to take things into their own hands, and second, Southern Vermont towns are all in different stages of addressing their connectivity issues. This knowledge helped us frame the day’s conversation.”
The Connectivity Summit was designed to build on last year’s summit, and to work for communities at all different points in the process. It was organized into two tracks, one for towns looking to get organized, and one for towns which have a town-sanctioned effort to address connectivity. In the morning towns heard about how to start getting organized and how the nationwide FirstNet buildout will connect Southern Vermont public safety officials. They also heard case studies from projects located in Vermont and Massachusetts. Towns with sanctioned efforts spent time one-on-one with state, federal, and private providers strategizing development action plans to build out connectivity in their own towns.
“The recent 2018 Connectivity Summit at Mount Snow was extremely valuable to the small, undeserved southern Vermont towns that I represent. Being able to meet one-on-one with representatives of the several service providers served to cut through much of the usual administrative and bureaucratic marketing fluff. We discussed what the service providers could offer – and at what costs – and to determine if there would be a good ‘fit’ between the providers and the municipalities,” stated Hal Wilkins, who serves as the Zoning Administrator and Town Planner for the towns of Landgrove, Pawlet, and Sandgate, Vermont.
One of the outcomes of the day is a connectivity survey, workshopped by the attendees, that towns can deploy to their residents in order to glean baseline information on connectivity in their town. Towns have received both a link to the online version and a hard copy. Towns that use this tool to collect data are being asked to present their findings at a session at the 3rd Annual Southern Vermont Economy Summit on May 23, 2019.
If your town is interested in deploying the connectivity survey, please email Sarah Lang at firstname.lastname@example.org