Following a short back and forth Thursday with Gov. Kenneth Mapp about leave for employees, V.I. Next Generation Network’s Tonjia Coverdale resigned her post as president of the company.
The brief board meeting on St. Thomas was the first time the viNGN board had met since December, but Coverdale put the spotlight on the agency during a February meeting before the Senate, where she spoke about the limits of viNGN’s network, especially when it comes to connecting with local internet service providers.
Access to high-speed fiber-optic broadband Internet isn’t coming quickly enough to the homes of Virgin Islanders, thanks in part to constraints placed on the way viNGN does business, Coverdale said at the hearing. Coverdale also expressed frustration that viNGN is not authorized to sell high-speed Internet access directly to the territory’s residences and businesses.
“It’s difficult to have such a powerful, powerful network and yet we’re having difficulty getting to the people,” she told senators.
During Thursday’s meeting, viNGN board members said they were concerned about the Senate’s response to Coverdale’s testimony, which they said was used as “ammunition against the board and governor” about items that had not been accomplished over the last few months.
Mapp said that while he was not “embarrassed,” by the discussion, there is still “much business to be had” by local ISPs if they “get out there” and do the work.
“My understanding of viNGN is that … the government gave us this investment of about $90 million to construct this wonderful platform, and that the ISPs should have access to this platform but must build the last mile and build the access to residents and businesses to this platform,” Mapp said.
“It is their job to get out there, construct the last mile, knock on doors and be competitive, not the government.”
Board members said they also understand from ISPs that there has been “substantial change” in the last year and that things are “moving along smoother” than before.
The board moved into executive session to discuss financial matters from the beginning of the meeting that Mapp said should not be done publicly.
Coverdale said afterward that she resigned, but no reason was given.
According to a press release from Government House, board secretary Peter Schultz has been tapped to lead viNGN until a permanent replacement is selected.
Earlier in the meeting, an issue dealing with leave for viNGN employees caused a small flare up between Coverdale and Mapp, who did not agree on an incentive included in the company’s annual report that gave employees an extra holiday each quarter.
“In addition to the 26 holidays and the personal leave days, as governor, I am asked at times to give more leave during Carnival, Festival and St. John Festival festivities,” Mapp said, adding that the work time for employees gets shorter during the year with additional time off.
While Coverdale said that viNGN’s employees “work around the clock,” even when others do not, Mapp said any decision on extra days off would have to be made in consultation with the board.