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PFA Brings in Expertise Needed for Broadband Project

In its last meeting of the year, the Public Finance Authority board made its territory-wide broadband project the focus of the agenda and approved a few resolutions that would bring in the expertise needed to guide the process forward.

In March, the PFA board authorized the issuance of up to $20 million in new bonds needed to help finance the project, which is expected to cost more than $100 million.

The government has been applying for federal grants to cover most of the costs and has since received several awards allowing not only for the network’s construction, but also for conducting public awareness campaigns, expanding job skills and setting up computer centers, among other things.

At this point, the government has $106 million for the construction of the fiber optic network, to include $59 million in federal funds, along with $15 million in in-kind contributions from WAPA and the new bond proceeds, which will also be used for a local match.

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At a meeting in September, PFA board members voted to tack another $12 million onto the bond issue, bringing the total up to $32 million, which would: provide $5 million in working capital for the network over the next three to four years; cover $2 million in expenses not covered by the federal grants; and help the government acquire and build out its main computer and network operations centers.

In the meantime, the board has established a wholly-owned subsidiary of the PFA called the V.I. Next Generation Network (VINGN), which will be charged with implementing and operating the broadband assets on an ongoing basis once the network has been built. The PFA would be the subsidiary’s sole stock holder, while a group of seven individuals would sit on its board of directors.

A temporary VINGN board was put together at the PFA’s board meeting last month, with the seven slots being filled by the existing PFA board members — Gov. John deJongh Jr., Debra Gottlieb, Angel Dawson, Keith O’Neale and Pablo O’Neil — along with PFA head Julito Francis and V.I. Water and Power Authority head Hugo Hodge Jr.

The board voted Monday, however, to replace Gottlieb, Dawson and O’Neil with Douglas F. Woodhead, Peter C. Schultz and Alfred F. Boschulte, leaving deJongh, O’Neale, Francis and Hodge to round out the group.

Woodhead is currently the engineering director of Atlanta-based Cisco Systems, Inc., and has, according to his resume, more than 19 years of experience in engineering design and network management.

Schultz, according to his bio on Wikipedia, is "co-inventor of the fiber optics now used worldwide for telecommunications," and was inducted in 1993 into the National Inventors Hall of Fame.

Boschulte’s experience also includes his current position as the chairman of Probe Financial Associates. PFA board members said Bosculte’s know-how said would come in handy during the project’s business development phase.

"I do intend for this to be a working board," Francis said after Monday’s meeting on St. Thomas. "This is a massive project that requires a lot of support at all levels—we need world-class individuals for a world class network."

VINGN’s first contract was approved by PFA board members Monday after Francis recounted the details of the bidding and selection process for a firm to complete construction and engineering drawings for the network. Atlantic Engineering Group came in as the lowest among eight bids, which ranged as high as $9.6 million, he said.

The broadband initiative has four components, and along with doing the drawings, Atlantic Engineering will also be a consultant on two other parts, which include building the network and making sure the community is aware of the public computer centers that will be built in conjunction with the project.

The broadband initiative has to be entirely complete by June 2013, and 67 percent complete by June 2012. Francis said, however, that it’s hoped a prototype network will be in place by the end of 2011.

Board members present during Monday’s meeting were deJongh, Dawson, Gottlieb, O’Neale and O’Neil.

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In its last meeting of the year, the Public Finance Authority board made its territory-wide broadband project the focus of the agenda and approved a few resolutions that would bring in the expertise needed to guide the process forward.

In March, the PFA board authorized the issuance of up to $20 million in new bonds needed to help finance the project, which is expected to cost more than $100 million.

The government has been applying for federal grants to cover most of the costs and has since received several awards allowing not only for the network’s construction, but also for conducting public awareness campaigns, expanding job skills and setting up computer centers, among other things.

At this point, the government has $106 million for the construction of the fiber optic network, to include $59 million in federal funds, along with $15 million in in-kind contributions from WAPA and the new bond proceeds, which will also be used for a local match.

At a meeting in September, PFA board members voted to tack another $12 million onto the bond issue, bringing the total up to $32 million, which would: provide $5 million in working capital for the network over the next three to four years; cover $2 million in expenses not covered by the federal grants; and help the government acquire and build out its main computer and network operations centers.

In the meantime, the board has established a wholly-owned subsidiary of the PFA called the V.I. Next Generation Network (VINGN), which will be charged with implementing and operating the broadband assets on an ongoing basis once the network has been built. The PFA would be the subsidiary's sole stock holder, while a group of seven individuals would sit on its board of directors.

A temporary VINGN board was put together at the PFA's board meeting last month, with the seven slots being filled by the existing PFA board members -- Gov. John deJongh Jr., Debra Gottlieb, Angel Dawson, Keith O'Neale and Pablo O'Neil -- along with PFA head Julito Francis and V.I. Water and Power Authority head Hugo Hodge Jr.

The board voted Monday, however, to replace Gottlieb, Dawson and O'Neil with Douglas F. Woodhead, Peter C. Schultz and Alfred F. Boschulte, leaving deJongh, O'Neale, Francis and Hodge to round out the group.

Woodhead is currently the engineering director of Atlanta-based Cisco Systems, Inc., and has, according to his resume, more than 19 years of experience in engineering design and network management.

Schultz, according to his bio on Wikipedia, is "co-inventor of the fiber optics now used worldwide for telecommunications," and was inducted in 1993 into the National Inventors Hall of Fame.

Boschulte's experience also includes his current position as the chairman of Probe Financial Associates. PFA board members said Bosculte's know-how said would come in handy during the project's business development phase.

"I do intend for this to be a working board," Francis said after Monday's meeting on St. Thomas. "This is a massive project that requires a lot of support at all levels—we need world-class individuals for a world class network."

VINGN's first contract was approved by PFA board members Monday after Francis recounted the details of the bidding and selection process for a firm to complete construction and engineering drawings for the network. Atlantic Engineering Group came in as the lowest among eight bids, which ranged as high as $9.6 million, he said.

The broadband initiative has four components, and along with doing the drawings, Atlantic Engineering will also be a consultant on two other parts, which include building the network and making sure the community is aware of the public computer centers that will be built in conjunction with the project.

The broadband initiative has to be entirely complete by June 2013, and 67 percent complete by June 2012. Francis said, however, that it's hoped a prototype network will be in place by the end of 2011.

Board members present during Monday's meeting were deJongh, Dawson, Gottlieb, O'Neale and O'Neil.