VINGN applies for another extension to finish open-access broadband network


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ST. THOMAS - The V.I. Next Generation Network officials said they have almost completed the territory's first open-access broadband network, but it will not meet the current Dec. 31 deadline.

V.I. Next Generation Network President and Chief Executive Officer Lawrence Kupfer said the federal government offered another extension, and an application is pending.

"They are considering extensions to the end of the first or second quarter. We would expect to have most work completed by end of first quarter, but they may give us to end of second quarter to ensure that everything will be completed," he said.

The deadline for construction of the network was originally July, but that deadline was pushed back to Dec. 31 in September.

Part of the network build-out is the construction of fiber access points, small concrete structures that house equipment.

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

One super fiber access point is in Frederiksted and the other is next to the V.I. Territorial Emergency Management building on St. Thomas.

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.

Kupfer said five fiber access points still are under construction, three on St. Thomas and two on St. Croix.

About 325 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.

While the backbone of the network largely is completed, connecting the anchor institutions to the network is taking time, he said.

The V.I. Next Generation Network is a subsidiary of the V.I. Public Finance Authority and was created to oversee the construction and operation of the territory's first open-access broadband network.

The $117 million broadband expansion project is funded by four federal stimulus grants plus a local match of $32 million.

Kupfer said as of Sept. 30, the project has expended $55.9 million of the $85.5 million in grant funding.

The V.I. Next Generation Network will build the "middle mile" fiber network, and sell space on the network to Internet service providers, who will then sell service to customers.

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

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