If Stephan Adams has his way, there won’t be a square inch of the U.S. Virgin Islands without a wireless internet signal.
Using an alphabet soup of government funding programs, Adams, the president and CEO of viNGN — the Virgin Islands Next Generation Network — plans to bring Wi-Fi to parks, ports, schools, hospitals, beaches, public housing, shopping districts, community centers, government offices, and street corners. The viNGN operates a federally-funded fiberoptic network in the territory and is wholly owned by the V.I. government.
“This is just the beginning,” Adams told the Legislature’s Committee on Housing, Transportation, and Telecommunications on Tuesday. “We have 176 hotspots. By the time we’re done with this program we will have more than 1,000 hotspots. There won’t be a place you can go in the territory you won’t be able to go without hitting one of viNGN’s hotspots and it will be free.”
Digitally unserved and underserved U.S. Virgin Islanders could benefit from the Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment program, the Digital Equity Act Program, the Middle Mile Broadband Infrastructure Program, and the American Rescue Plan Act for public Wi-Fi and broadband service in their homes, Adams said.
He said federal programs were in line with local goals from Gov. Albert Bryan Jr.
“The USVI Broadband Office has developed a strategic framework of our strategy to execute the goals and objectives of the Biden-Harris Administration’s Internet for All program. This strategy integrates Governor Bryan’s Wi-Fi for All initiative funded through other federal grants, awarded to viNGN. The first is for free Wi-Fi deployment throughout the territory under a $582,000 CARES Act grant for distance learning. The second is a ‘pending’ $10.8 million ARPA grant to deploy Wi-Fi in support of telemedicine. Both initiatives have a secondary purpose of providing general community Wi-Fi,” Adams said.
The White House’s Internet for All initiative, made possible by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, will invest $45 billion to provide affordable, reliable, high-speed internet for everyone in America by the end of the decade, Adams said. The initiative is being administered and implemented by the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration.
“Community engagement is critical to the success of the NTIA Broadband programs,” Adams said. “My office will conduct a multi-month listening tour to get actionable feedback.”
Adams said the examination of public Wi-Fi is important not only for residents but for the tourism industry looking to attract digital nomads able to work anywhere using high-speed bandwidth.
“That’s a selling point for in the Virgin Islands,” he said.