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viNGN Now in Close-Out Period for Grant

With all of its anchor institutions off the ground and its June 30 deadline met, the V.I. Next Generation Network is focusing on closing out the grant it received to build a territorywide broadband network meant to bring faster speeds and more reliable internet service to residents.

At a meeting on St. Thomas Thursday, Chief Executive Officer Lawrence Kupfer told viNGN board members that all of the anticipated 318 anchor institutions – public sites such as universities, schools, libraries and government agencies – are now connected to the network, which recently went live. The anchor institutions have now been turned over to various Internet service providers, which are expected to offer customers a chance to tap into viNGN’s faster network at affordable rates.

Government agencies have already begun connecting. During Thursday’s meeting, Kupfer said at least two entities – the Bureau of Information Technology and the Education Department – have partnered with a local Internet service provider and are already seeing savings.

BIT has signed on with Orbitel for Internet service, and by tapping into the viNGN network, has seen an 80 percent reduction in cost, Kupfer said. Education, meanwhile, has selected Broadband V.I. as its Internet service provider and Kupfer said Thursday that the agency is working with them to hook up the local public schools.

Now, viNGN has until Sept. 27 to close out the construction grant. Over the next month, the company’s staff will complete the paperwork, including final reports, pay vendors and take stock of its assets.

The broadband expansion project is funded by four grants in total. Kupfer said viNGN is on track to meet the Sept. 30 deadline for its free computer training courses. In other meetings, Kupfer has said the company will see what it can offer beyond that date so that residents can keep signing up and receiving certifications. A partnership with Education to offer free digital literacy courses to students is also expected to continue in the fall, viNGN officials said.

A partnership with the Government Employees Retirement System will offer digital literacy courses to GERS members, according to viNGN Sales and Marketing Vice President Kevin Hughes.

The company’s State Broadband Initiative, or State Broadband Data and Development, grant, is set to expire Jan. 30, and Kupfer said Thursday that viNGN has continued working with the V.I. Water and Power Authority on the development of a smart-grid mapping system, and with the Lieutenant Governor’s Office on its street mapping initiative.

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