WiFi Takes Off at Vermont’s Visitor CentersVisitors and Vermonters who travel the interstate system are connected better than ever before to work, friends and family as they travel through Vermont. A stop at many of Vermont’s visitor centers now allows travelers to access the Internet via a fast and reliable broadband connection.On November 14, 2007, Governor Douglas inaugurated free WiFi service at state visitor centers announcing that “Travelers using our major roadways can now use wireless Internet service free of charge. This advancement of my E-State Initiative will make this resource more valuable for business people, tourists and all those who use our highways.”Since May 2007 the State has seen a 1298% increase in WiFi usage by travelers.The initial setup of WiFi services at Vermonts visitor centers has been funded through ConnectVermont, a program managed by the Vermont Agency of Transportation and the Vermont Agency of Commerce & Community Development that aims to make traveling in Vermont safer and more convenient. Senator Patrick Leahy has secured $15 million in federal funding to allow the State to expand traveler services, enhance broadband Internet access and attract more visitors to Vermont through various ConnectVermont activities.More information about these projects is available online at www.connectvermont.com(link is external).Times have changed at Vermont’s visitor centers. While we used to see travelers stop to use our facilities now it is common to see them linger longer while sitting in a Vermont Folk Rocker and access e-mail or connect to work as they pass through the state said Ed von Turkovich, Director of the States Information Center Division. “Our usage is up dramatically and it is now common to see our visitors, who while commuting stop in to use the visitor centers as a temporary office,” said von Turkovich.Installing WiFi access at all state-operated information centers was a component of the Governors E-State Initiative to provide high speed Internet capability and mobile phone coverage to Vermonters in every community. “Providing High Speed Internet access to our visitors is one important piece of the puzzle” said Mary Evslin, Board Chair of the Vermont Telecommunications Authority. “Connecting Vermonters is critically important to the Governor’s initiative and to the State’s interest in ensuring that we have a comprehensive architecture of connectivity in place by the end of 2010.””For visitors to Vermont it sends the right message” said Al Levy of Summit Technologies the firm responsible for building the WiFi system on the interstate. “The world is moving at an ever-accelerating pace to connect itself via an ever-expanding world wide web. It only makes good sense that in Vermont visitors to our state know Vermont is following the same path,” said Levy.The State plans to continue expanding WiFi coverage at its visitor centers over the next 18 months. The State also plans to provide marketing opportunities to businesses looking for exposure on the State’s WiFi web portals located at visitor centers where WiFi has been installed. Businesses interested in exploring how they can benefit from this opportunity should contact Al Levy at Summit Technologies at 802-846-3030 x222 or firstname.lastname@example.org(link sends e-mail)# # #
A new online resource for transgender students facing discrimination and homelessness came from an unlikely source: one USC student’s blog on Tumblr, a popular social media website.Listings · Anyone can offer housing to transgender people through the website, which was created by a gender studies major. People from as far away as Australia and the United Kingdom have started using the site. – Photo Illustration by Razan Al Marzouqi | Daily Trojan Dylan, a junior majoring in gender studies who asked his last name remain anonymous, said the idea for his website, called the Transgender Housing Network, came from browsing Tumblr.“I noticed that many of the people I followed on Tumblr who identified as transgender needed a place to stay for a night or more, and I thought that it would be fantastic and convenient to have an aggregate of these listings all in one place,” Dylan said.Vincent Vigil, director of the LGBT Resource Center, said the blog is not only a good resource for transgender students, but also a way for them to network and socialize without the fear of discrimination.“The website clearly illustrates how LGBTQ people are being discriminated [against] and kicked out of their families,” Vigil said. “Two people might have trouble finding housing and are able to connect with each other to share their experiences on the site.”Dylan said he hopes to encourage USC students, regardless of their gender identity, to post on Facebook or THN as long as they are willing to host transgender individuals who need a place to stay.“Any USC student who is willing to host someone should try to educate themselves about transgender issues and be the best ally possible to whoever they are hosting,” Dylan said. “THN is trying to create safe spaces for transgender individuals, especially if they are struggling with homelessness and similar issues.”The services of THN are exclusively for those who identify as transgender, although anyone is able to offer housing through the Tumblr page.Despite the praise the site has received, THN faces some struggles. Currently, Dylan is the only one running THN. And with a part-time job, a spot on the Trojan Marching Band and a full course load scheduled for the fall, it is hard for him to dedicate enough time to running the site.“These issues could be overcome if I had more people involved in the organization, but this is also difficult because I really, truly want to make sure that everyone directly involved with the network is transgender,” Dylan said.Mellissa Linton, executive director of the Queer and Ally Student Assembly and a junior majoring in American studies and ethnicity and English, also said the transgender community is more often neglected than other groups in the LGBTQ spectrum.“Since trans are most often neglected in the queer movement, the website provides a safe place to build a network and community,” Linton said, “They are often subjected to violence on the streets [without a place to stay].”Another obstacle is that many LGBT organizations are not equipped, prepared or willing to take necessary steps to make transgender students welcome and safe.“Although the ‘T’ is included in the LGBT acronym, it is unfortunately often forgotten. My hope for THN is to not only build trans allies and help cisgender people [one who is not transgender] become better allies, but to build something within the trans community that really specifically caters to the needs of trans people,” Dylan said.In the future, Dylan said he hopes to make THN a non-profit organization.“This [non-profit status] would allow us to accept donations and thus pay for a number of services, like web hosting and web design, as well as a number of other things,” Dylan said.