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RTPark at UVI Launches E-Commerce Project

Dec. 15, 2007 — The University of the Virgin Islands Research and Technology Park (RTPark) has brought its first big bundle of bandwidth online at Global Crossing's beachhead in Frederiksted.
“This means the connectivity is now in place for commercial clients in Frederiksted," said David Zumwalt, RTPark's executive director, in a phone interview Friday.
The technology park is an economic development initiative begun by the University of the Virgin Islands that officials hope will ultimately benefit UVI and the territory by providing jobs and tax revenue. The goal is to provide the infrastructure and setting for Internet-based commercial enterprises, which will generate tax and rent revenues and create jobs.
UVI has set aside 10 acres on its St. Croix campus for the park's buildings and infrastructure. Plans for the technology park began in 2001, and in 2002 the Legislature passed a charter and provided initial funding. What it will offer to businesses is buildings built with their needs in mind, substantial tax benefits through the Economic Development Commission (EDC) and access to the resources of the university.
The park will be able to handle most e-commerce businesses, but not ones that use gigantic amounts of very fast bandwidth, such as a stock exchange. For those specialized functions, businesses need access to the Global Crossing large data trunk cable in Frederiksted.
The Global Crossing switching center accesses a sea of Internet bandwidth. One of two major data-trunk cables landing on St. Croix, the Global Crossing cable carries the bulk of all communications in and out of the Virgin Islands.
Large portions of Latin American telecommunications flow through that cable, and part of it — eight conduits — come ashore north of Frederiksted. Global Crossing's beachhead on St. Croix links the territory to its ring circling South America and, in essence, the whole world. According to Global Crossing, 70 percent of Latin American overseas phone traffic flies over that cable.
Here's the rundown for technically minded people: Each of those eight conduits can handle 64 STM1 connections. An STM1 can transmit 155 megabits per second. That is 100 times the capacity of the better-known T1 connection that many businesses use to connect an entire office building to broadband. The currently available capacity from Global Crossing is equivalent to 51,200 T1s. Sources at Global Crossing say its capacity will increase over the next year.
But all that bandwidth does not go all over the island. It is accessible only from Frederiksted.
Bringing this circuit, called an STM-1, online is a step forward toward a commercially operational facility.
The RTPark has received approximately $6 million in legislative appropriations for operating expenses to date. An additional $7 million for capital expenses — such as the construction of the park — was disbursed by the Public Finance Authority earlier this year. Federal loans and grants subsidize the project, too.
The STM-1 carries data at a rate of approximately 155 megabits per second. It will serve as the initial backbone of RTPark’s e-commerce data center on St. Croix, which is located inside a Global Crossing fiber switching facility here.
Sterling, Va.-based MZK Corporation played a key role in putting together the live connection at Global Crossing, according to a release issued by the RTPark.
"This is an important milestone for RTPark,” Zumwalt said in that release. “St. Croix sits at a global crossroads for Tier-1 connectivity via undersea fiber, and this circuit provides a critical on-ramp for bandwidth-based businesses seeking to participate in our economic development mission in the U.S. Virgin Islands.”
The STM-1 is actually capable of serving many more than 100 large commercial customers through high-tech information traffic engineering, according to the release. Zumwalt said a second STM-1 is also in the works. That one will be dedicated to carrying Internet2, he said.
Internet2 is a non-profit consortium which develops and deploys advanced network applications and technologies for education. The Internet2 consortium is led by over 200 universities and partners in areas from the networking, publishing technology industries. UVI plans to deploy Internet2 connectivity to its St. Croix and St. Thomas campuses early next year.
Zumwalt said Friday negotiations are proceeding with companies who will manage and maintain the day-to-day operations of the RTPark's operation within Global Crossing and he expects to have announcements to make on that score before the end of January. Design drawings are being prepared for the main RTPark complex at UVI and Zumwalt said plans are on track for completion of the park around late spring of 2009.
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