Territory's broadband network on track for June 30 completion

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ST. THOMAS - The V.I. Next Generation Network is on track to meet the June 30 deadline for completion of the territory's first open access broadband network.

V.I. Next Generation Network President and Chief Executive Officer Lawrence Kupfer said the St. Thomas super fiber access point, located in front of the V.I. Territorial Emergency Management Agency building, has been "lit" and tested.

He said active fiber optic cables are now connecting the St. Thomas super fiber access point to St. Croix, New York and Miami.

St. Croix's super fiber access point has been operating for months.

The two super fiber access points - air-conditioned concrete structures filled with equipment - act as substations or distribution centers for the fiber-optic network. They will be the first stopping place for fiber-optic cables coming directly from the mainland.

From there, the fiber network will be sent out to about 26 smaller fiber access points, at which local service providers can connect to deliver high-speed Internet to homes and businesses.

Additionally, 316 anchor facilities will tie-in directly to the network. Under the federal grant award, anchor tenants include all schools, universities, government offices, community centers, health care centers and public safety and first-responder entities.

Kupfer said by the end of February, 137 anchor tenants had been connected.

Six anchor institutions have been connected to the St. Thomas super fiber access point and the network will soon be notifying them that they can choose an Internet service provider and begin receiving speeds of up to 1,000 megabytes per second.

The board approved one contract Tuesday.

J. Benton Construction was awarded a $827,885 contract to make electrical upgrades to the two super fiber access points.

Kupfer said a larger air conditioner and a larger generator is needed to properly care for the equipment inside the structures.

He said the contractors who originally built the structures are no longer involved with the network, and those contracts were let before he came on board so he could not comment on how the mistakes occurred.

"We're concerned it's not adequate," he said.

He said the air conditioners and generators will go into the network's warehouse to be used as backups if needed.

- Contact reporter Aldeth Lewin at 714-9111 or email alewin@dailynews.vi.

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