Attendees put pressure on the Virgin Islands Next Generation Network on Wednesday morning at the coalition meeting to draft prices as the network plans to sell broadband bandwidth to internet service providers in the territory. Nearly 20 people attended the meeting at the University of the Virgin Islands to learn about the network’s progress in its broadband initiative and their role as ISPs.
Internet service representatives worried that viNGN would try to sell broadband internet to individuals as well and ultimately put providers out of business.
That’s not the case, according to Kevin Hughes, viNGN’s vice president of sales and marketing, and Peter Schultz, secretary of the governing board.
Both Hughes and Schultz asserted that the purpose of the Comprehensive Community Infrastructure grant, which allows them to build a broadband network in the territory, is to provide service to over 300 government institutions such as libraries and hospitals at no cost, and also to sell service to ISPs.
“Your providers will be my customers. Those are the people I will be dealing with on a daily basis,” said Hughes. “We sell to the ISPs. That’s it. We will not sell to any other entities.”
Although viNGN employees promised that there would be no competition among services, attendees like Chris Doute, network manager for the Department of Planning and Natural Resources’ Division of Libraries, wanted to know how much the network plans to charge for the service and what regulations the network has to follow to set prices.
The network has not set any prices yet, but using the CCI timeline provided by viNGN, attendees said they expected a draft to be completed in 30 days. The network’s Chief Executive Officer Lawrence Kupfer and Schultz both said they felt prices would be outlined by that time.
The network does not have any guidelines or regulations it must follow when setting prices. However, Kupfer said they want to encourage bandwidth and broadband adoption, so they’re setting prices accordingly.
The project began about a year ago and has made significant progress in the last six months, Schultz said as he gave an extensive presentation of the current status of the project and a timeline for completion (see viNGN project timetable).
The network will ultimately connect St. Croix to Miami and New York City, allowing more bandwidth at better prices. Undersea, underground and aerial lines will connect St. Croix, St. Thomas and St. John (see viNGN project diagram).
Schultz said that a majority of the materials are already on hand, including the fiber cable, which is essential to the project, so viNGN expects to stay on track with their timeline. He showed maps of how the fiber will be installed on each island, noting that the design has not significantly changed since it was originally introduced.
Schultz also showed where fiber access point sites will be located on all three islands and noted that the super fiber access points on St. Thomas and St. Croix are nearly complete. There will be 26 FAP sites total for the territory, he said.
There are several small projects working within the greater picture, speakers said, so they encouraged the public to stay involved on the progress of each. Hopefully, they said, in the next six months as the project comes to an end, residents will see bills decrease and service speed increase.