VINGN completes construction of broadband network on deadline


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ST. THOMAS - The territory's open-access broadband network has met its first big deadline, completing construction on the network by June 30.

V.I. Next Generation Network President and Chief Executive Officer Lawrence Kupfer said the government entity met its 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.

"We're still doing final commissioning and testing, but that is allowable work during the close out period," Kupfer said.

Many of the anchor institutions have been given the green light to go ahead and enter into a contract with an Internet service provider. V.I. Next Generation Network has eight customer contracts with service providers.

The network, largely funded with federal stimulus grants, is called a "middle mile" project. The company will sell space on the network to local area service providers, which then will provide the "last mile" connection to individual homes and businesses.

Kupfer said the network's construction has been completed, on time and within budget.

"We expect to close the grant out and file all the paperwork by Sept. 30," Kupfer said.

As the construction phase of the network winds down, some jobs may be affected, according to Kupfer.

"Some will shift over to operating. Some positions may be eliminated at the end of the close out period," he said.

However, some natural attrition - such as the vice president of construction's retirement - has eliminated most of the need for layoffs, according to Kupfer.

As construction ends, the network must shift to operations mode.

"We have been hiring an operating staff over the last few months," Kupfer said.

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.

The next two grants, one to create 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.

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.

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

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