V.I. Next Generation Network already resulting in significant savings for some government entities
Published: August 8, 2014
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ST. THOMAS - The V.I. Next Generation Network board got an update on the territory's broadband project, and board members congratulated staff for meeting the federal deadline to complete the network's construction.
V.I. Next Generation Network President and Chief Executive Officer Lawrence Kupfer said the government entity met its June 30 deadline and is now in the 90-day "close out" period of the grant.
All 318 anchor institutions - all schools, universities, government offices, community centers, health care centers, some doctors' offices and public safety and first-responder entities - are connected to the network, which is live.
"It's been a three-year effort, and I think we should all be proud of what we have accomplished," Kupfer said.
Kupfer said the agency has now turned over the anchor institutions to be connected to an Internet Service Provider of their choice.
He said the Bureau of Information Technology has chosen Orbitel as its provider and is tapped into the network and saving about 80 percent on Internet costs.
Broadband VI was awarded the ISP contract for the V.I. Education Department, and the V.I. Next Generation Network is working with them to get all the schools hooked up, Kupfer said. He said the Education Department also expects to see a marked decrease in the cost of Internet service.
Board chairman Gov. John deJongh Jr. commended the staff for meeting the critical deadline.
"I think your team has done a tremendous job," he said.
DeJongh said with all the multitasking that took place, from filing permits to making appearances in Senate, "There was a lot going on in a very short period of time."
The final date for the grant's close-out period is Sept. 27, Office of Economic Opportunity Director Vicki Johnson said.
Johnson said the staff will be busy until that date documenting all assets, paying vendors and completing final reports required for the federal granting agency.
The construction of the network was the largest of four federal stimulus grants awarded to the V.I. government to provide high speed Internet and spur economic development in the territory.
The next two grants, one to create 31 public computer centers and one to provide free computer training to residents, will expire Sept. 30, after which a 90-day close out period will begin.
Vice President of Sales and Marketing Kevin Hughes told the board Thursday that the agency has partnered with the V.I. Education Department to offer the free digital literacy computer training course to all junior high and high school students attending summer school. They hope to continue training students in the fall as well, Hughes said.
Hughes said the agency has taken out ads to run before feature films at the Caribbean Cinema movie theaters in the territory to promote the new network and the free computer classes and public computer centers.
V.I. Next Generation Network also has partnered with the Government Employees' Retirement System to offer digital literacy courses to GERS employees, Hughes said. GERS sent out an email blast to its members letting them know about the free courses, he said.
The fourth grant, the State Broadband Initiative/State Broadband Data and Development grant, is for broadband mapping and data collection. The end date for that grant is Jan. 30.
Hughes said the network is working with the V.I. Water and Power Authority on the plan to develop a smart grid and the Lt. Governor's Office on the street mapping program.
The V.I. Next Generation Network is a subsidiary of the V.I. Public Finance Authority and was created to build and operate the territory's first public broadband network.
The $117 million broadband expansion project is funded by four federal stimulus grants awarded by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration - a division of the U.S. Commerce Department.
- Contact reporter Aldeth Lewin at 714-9111 or email email@example.com.