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HomeNewsLocal newsLiberty VI and DPW Seek Solutions for Fiber Optic Quagmire

Liberty VI and DPW Seek Solutions for Fiber Optic Quagmire

Liberty workers install infrastructure for a fiber network. (Photo from Liberty VI webpage)

According to testimony at government hearings, the effort to bring faster and more secure Internet connections to the territory residents is stumbling. Depending on whom you are talking to, the stumbling block could be the slow permitting process or how the work is done.

Liberty VI is being paid to implement the Federal Communications Commission’s Connect USVI initiative. The project’s design includes a fiber-to-the-home standard to increase speed. When completed, it should deliver a resilient network with improved performance.

Some residents are linking this project’s slowness to various other complaints.

Up to this week, most of the finger-pointing has been at the Public Works Department.

Ricardo Portela, representing Liberty, asked the Public Services Commission in September to lobby the Public Works Department to develop a new process so Liberty could make its goals.

Plans originally called for the fiber network to run past 10,000 homes in 2022 and past another 12,000 in 2023. However, according to Portela, no construction was completed in 2022, and only 4,000 homes were passed in 2023.

He said some “umbrella” permitting process would work, not forcing Liberty to get a permit for every little region.

Although DPW Commissioner Derek Gabriel could not make the Committee on Housing, Transportation, and Telecommunications meeting Wednesday, he sent the chairman of the committee, Sen. Marvin Blyden, a letter.

Blyden read this section of the letter into the record. “Prior to the Liberty VI undergrounding efforts, DPW had no experience with micro trenching or a policy for such. Moreover, our policy for undergrounding efforts has required trenching to be done at least 24 inches or below the surface in the right of way. Micro trenching calls for lines to be buried within eight to twelve inches of the surface. In fact, many jurisdictions across the country limit micro trenching and have strict requirements. Most, if not all, states do not allow any micro trenching on highways. Caution must be exercised when permitting micro trenching to avoid future conflicts and costly relocations.”

Blyden then asked the testifiers, “How will we fix this?”

His question was met with several seconds of silence.

Liberty and representatives from DPW have been holding weekly meetings to resolve the issues.

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