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viNGN Project Aims to Bring Jobs, Money to the Territory

The Virgin Islands Next Generation Network’s governing board said during its regular meeting Thursday that the Comprehensive Community Infrastructure grant project will bring jobs and money to the territory.

The board praised secretary Peter Schultz for the timely delivery of fiber and other essential equipment for the project, which will provide much-needed jobs for residents, money for the territory’s fragile economy and will ultimately support the network’s broadband initiative, board members said.

"The impact on the territory could be $70 million to $100 million," said viNGN Chief Executive Officer Lawrence Kupfer, noting that the project will result in an additional $2 to $3 million in gross receipt taxes.

Kupfer said that the completed project will represent "$45 million worth of work that local companies should be able to perform." Work such as site inspections, trenching and installation will be done on a small scale suitable for local contractors, allowing money from the project to funnel back into the territory , he added.

The project is part of the Comprehensive Community Infrastructure grant designed to “deploy a high-speed fiber network, creating a territorywide middle mile network and connect community anchor institutions with reliable high-speed internet services,” according to the grant. The project will consist of four 10-mile segments, two on St. Croix and two on St. Thomas, on the east and west sides of both islands.

On St. Croix, the segments will run from Frederiksted to Christiansted, not forcing any major highways to close. On St. Thomas, segments will run from the Cyril E. King airport to Redhook and will likely close some major roads leading from Redhook to town.

The group received proposals last week for inspection and administrative duties which they are currently evaluating and hope to complete in August. They sent out a request for proposals last week and expect to award contracts for trenching in August.

The work will include placing fiber with existing Water and Power Authority fibers as well as pulling fibers through WAPA’ existing conduits, and placing fibers in new conduits. It will begin in September and is due to be completed by June 2013.

The broadband mapping project by data mapping company BroadMap will assist in the completion of the community infrastructure grant as it outlines areas of service throughout the territory. The map was recently completed, allowing internet service providers comprehensive information about service on each island.

The Public Computer Centers are nearly complete with 13 on St. Croix and a possible 14 on St. Thomas. Both islands had soft openings for a handful of centers, including training centers at the Department of Labor on each island. The Elaine Lone Sprauve Library and Museum on St. John is close to opening the PCC as a Memorandum of Agreement is already circulating. St. John may even end up with an additional three sites as several owners have expressed interest.

“Once administrators are trained, once computers are installed, we can start opening up those sites to the public,” said Kupfer, noting that training company CyberLearning is nearly finished training PCC operators and the centers should be completed in September.

Data service provider BetterWorld also plans to bring jobs to the territory as it recently hired a program manager and project coordinator to implement business hubs on St. Thomas and St. Croix. The St. Croix location will be on Strand Street while the St. Thomas location has yet to be decided.

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