V.I. Next Generation Network (viNGN) board members approved an amendment Friday to the agency's contract with Alcatel Lucent, who will be taking over from the V.I. Water and Power Authority on the construction of an undersea cable between St. Thomas and Water Island.
As part of the government's ongoing broadband network project, Alcatel Lucent was contracted for $5.6 million to construct the cable. Next Generation President Julito Francis said during a meeting on St. Thomas that WAPA was originally supposed to build the cable to Water Island as part of its in-kind contribution to the project, but can no longer afford to do so.
To date, the government has received five federal grants for the broadband initiative, which would create a middle-mile, fiber-optic network that interconnects the territory, Puerto Rico and Miami in an effort to provide local residents with more reliable, and cheaper, Internet service. WAPA was supposed to contribute $15 million as an in-kind match, but that amount will now be reduced since Alcatel Lucent will now be taking over this part of the job, board members said.
Board members said that while there is a memorandum of understanding between WAPA and viNGN, nothing has been executed at this point.
The new contract amount for Alcatel Lucent would be $6.78 million, which includes $1.14 million for two cables that would have two different landing sites from St. Thomas to Water Island, Francis said.
Francis said viNGN has put in for modifications of its original grant application because of the change in cable interconnection, which he also said will save viNGN $4 million to $5 million. He also said that it is hoped the funding would come from the grant proceeds, but he said that still has to be approved by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration.
Construction of the cable also has to go through a permitting process, which includes getting approval from the Army Corps of Engineers.
Board member Alfred Boschulte made the motion to approve the amended contract, which passed, but said that he would also like to see some formal communication from WAPA explaining the situation.
The board also received updates from member Peter Schultz, who is also chairing viNGN's Broadband Coalition, which was created to involve local providers and other stakeholders in the process. Shultz said he has not had any recent meetings, but would like to schedule one for September.
Boschulte also gave an update from the board's Finance Committee, which he said will be putting out a Request for Proposals for an auditor.
Board members attending Friday's meeting were Boschulte, Gov. John deJongh Jr., Keith O'Neale, Shultz and Doug Woodhead.