The board in charge of overseeing the build-out of the territory’s broadband system held its first meeting Tuesday to discuss and organize how it will move forward with the project.
"The build-out of our broadband infrastructure is a milestone achievement that will modernize and expand our communications and internet capabilities without limitation and will further spur economic growth ….,” Gov. John deJongh Jr. said in a statement Tuesday. "This effort will also expand access to the underserved and will uplift educational and learning opportunities territory-wide."
During Tuesday’s meeting of the V.I. Next Generation Network (viNGN), a subsidiary of the Public Finance Authority, board members discussed the timelines and scope of the project and the implementation process going forward.
In 2010, the territory was awarded four major grants through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) totaling approximately $70 million that would allow for the implementation of a core fiber ring network on all four islands, the renovation or construction of public computer centers, and the training of V.I. residents for educational and economic development.
The fiber ring network will be interconnected with submarine cables to the mainland and will substantially reduce internet connectivity costs and will increase end users’ internet access speeds, according to the governor’s statement.
The viNGN project will lay 244 miles of new fiber cables connecting over 700 pieces of network equipment, and will establish or renovate over 45 public computer centers throughout the territory.
DeJongh, who is chair of the viNGN board, also said that the territory is being watched closely by the federal government, which is monitoring the project’s progress and how the money is being spent. He said viNGN has filed a draft environmental assessment report for the project three days early and is "hopeful" that the territory will receive a "finding of no significant impact" that will clear the way for the board to go out for proposals and select firms for construction.
Julito Francis, viNGN’s president and chief executive officer, also said the board established a Broadband Coalition Committee that will meet with local internet providers to keep them up to date on the project.
"A primary component of this project, and central to its success, will be the involvement of broadband providers as they are our intended customers and ultimately the provider of services to the V.I. community," Francis said. "This is a tremendous opportunity for not only the improvement of service quality to V.I. customers but also opens tremendous small business and entrepreneurial opportunities."