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Monday, February 26, 2024
HomeNewsLocal newsDeeper Details Shared at Digital Access Public Meetings

Deeper Details Shared at Digital Access Public Meetings

Groups on St. Thomas, St. John, and St. Croix added their ideas as officials begin shaping the territory’s digital future. (Photo by Judi Shimel)

Bringing digital access to Virgin Islands residents in ways never seen before was the focus of three public meetings held this week, sponsored by the Virgin Islands Next Generation Network. This week’s discussions gave the public a chance to hear how the territory is starting to shape its digital access plan with help from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.

About half a dozen St. John residents met at the School of the Arts Tuesday night to view a presentation on Digital Equity Act programs. Almost an equal number joined the meeting by way of live stream video. Afterward, they exchanged ideas about how participants felt better access could improve life in the V.I.

It was the second public outreach in a series designed to introduce the territory’s plan, called usviDEAL. About 20 St. Thomas residents met at the V.I. Children’s Museum on Monday. A third gathering was planned on Wednesday for St. Croix.

Jaughna Nielsen-Bobbit, director of equity and inclusion for vINGN, invited everyone to view detailed information about the plan. She also encouraged them to send in comments, ideas, and opinions during a public comment period that ends by mid-December. Information about the first part of the grant program, called BEAD, can be found of the Office Of Management and Budget website.

BEAD — the Broadband Equity & Development program, brings $27 million to the V.I. and seeks to make high-speed, affordable internet service available to all. “The idea is to get this money out into the community and to be good stewards of this money,” Bobbit said.

In the second component — the Digital Access program — the Next Generation Network wants to work with community groups to make practical use of internet access a benefit to those who currently go without. One of the questions asked by groups taking part in this week’s meetings was how well they think the territory is serving veterans, the elderly, the young, folks living with disabilities, and persons involved in the criminal justice system.

Those were some, but not all, of the unserved and underserved groups that might benefit from digital access programs funded through usviDEAL, the director said. On Tuesday, the frequently expressed concerns were education, digital literacy, and the cost of living on St. John.

For participants who wanted to turn their ideas into action, the meeting included directions on filling out eligibility forms when $8 million in grants become available. A recording of the meeting at the arts school in Cruz Bay can be seen on the vINGN social media page.


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