Seven Days staff writer Charles Eichacker contributed this post.

cloud-computingEarlier this month, dubbed Burlington one of the most promising tech hubs to watch in 2014; today, an innovative coalition of Vermont groups calling itself the Civic Cloud Collaborative demonstrated why. The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation announced today that it’s awarding the Collaborative a $35,000 grant from its Prototype Fund.

The coalition will use the funding to develop an online space — a so-called “Civic Cloud” — for community-minded, nonprofit entities to expand their digital footprint. Members of the Collaborative include the civic-hacking group Code for BTV, the public-access television station CCTV Center for Media and Democracy and the web-based music platform Big Heavy World.

In an email to Seven Days, Big Heavy World executive director James Lockridge explained that the Civic Cloud is essentially “an internet makerspace.”

The Collaborative’s efforts will complement those of BTV Ignite, a joint intiative of the nonprofit group US Ignite and the city of Burlington. The goal of that partnership, announced three months ago, is to use Burlington Telecom’s high-speed “gigabit” network to facilitate innovative economic, educational and community-oriented digital projects.

“Today’s announcement is further evidence of Burlington’s growing reputation as a green, tech city able to leverage tremendous community resources through partnerships like BTV Ignite to catalyze economic development,” Mayor Miro Weinberger wrote in a press release today. “The Civic Cloud will help make our impressive network available for greater public use.”

Burlington Telecom’s fiber-optic network boasts speeds 100 times greater than the average national broadband connection. In the prototype phase of the Civic Cloud, media groups such as CCTV will get take advantage of those speeds, as well as funding from the Knight Foundation grant, to livestream public meetings and events. Various aid agencies, job banks and rescue services will be allowed to create WordPress websites. To preserve and promote Vermont-made music, nonprofit Big Heavy World is using the space to create a new website and more sophisticated web applications.

“By collaborating and sharing,” Lockridge wrote, “BHW is creating the world’s sweetest mothership for a website devoted to VT music and opening the door to new applications — some probably not imagined-up yet — that utilize gigabit connectivity.”