Internet users on St. John found themselves caught in an apparent dispute between service providers on April Fool’s Day. As a result, the connectivity they’d come to rely on since the passage of Hurricanes Irma and Maria was cut off.
By Wednesday the head of Virgin Islands Next Generation Network — the territory’s public broadband provider — declared a disconnect between themselves and Love City Community Network, the entity that had kept St. John on the web these past several months.
ViNGN President & CEO H. Mark McGibbon commended LCCN for their efforts in the days when public service providers were in recovery. But now, he said, it’s time to put a formal agreement in place. Representatives of LCCN say they want to maintain a model service provider free from corporate or government interests.
“viNGN appreciates all that Love City Community Network has done to bridge the connectivity gap on the island of St. John, which was hard-hit by Hurricanes Irma and Maria. On our own, viNGN moved quickly to provide linkups via its sub marine fiber optic cable just days after Irma, the foundation upon which most Internet traffic rests on this island.
We believe in transparency and level playing fields all around, and we work hard to maintain outstanding rapport with our local Internet Service Providers, including authorized non-profits,” McGibbon said.
The broadband executive then explained that a March 31 deadline was set to formalize a deal between viNGN and LCCN, but the date came and went without making progress. That left April 1 as a service cut off date.
The provider says there’s still time to produce a signed agreement, once LCCN hands over documentation and pays associated costs.
“For the past several weeks, viNGN has been in talks with LCCN towards ensuring compliance with all local and non-profit regulations and seeking verification of same. Eventually, a deadline of March 31, 2018 was granted, to allow leeway to assemble all necessary documentation. viNGN has gone the extra mile to request that LCCN sign a service agreement months ago in order to temporarily continue business in the Territory, which allowed LCCN time to collect and submit the necessary business paperwork required by all such USVI businesses. To date, LCCN has not committed to viNGN nor submitted the necessary documents,” McGibbon said.
Attempts to reach Rob Tutton with Love City Community Network for comment were unsuccessful by press time. LCCN has served island residents by helping to establish internet hot spots in four locations around Cruz Bay and one in Coral Bay.
Over the Easter weekend, LCCN issued a statement that read: “We are disappointed to announce that our connection to the Virgin Islands Next Generation Network (viNGN) was suspended … as a result of a breakdown in contract negotiations relating to our decision to operate as a not-for-profit Community Service Provider.”
An internet service provider, or ISP, facilitates access, use or participation of groups and individuals. Non-profit service providers operate in locations around the U.S., in Europe and in Canada.
Two other hot spots in Cruz Bay were established by Viya, formerly Innovative Telephone Co. Viya also furnishes personal internet hot spots after merging with Choice Communication several months ago.
Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that LCCN is also known as LoveIT.
Shared content for Virgin Islands Source and St. John Tradewinds.