March 15, 2004 — Joseph Fergus, founder and chief executive officer of Communication Technologies (COMTek), one of America's fastest-growing technology companies, says the territory's economic potential can be fully realized only by providing a competitive business environment for telecommunications and other technology companies.
Fergus asserts: "Without such competition, the islands will never have the opportunity to enjoy the tremendous progress and growth already experienced by other communities that embraced change and welcomed new ideas."
Speaking from COMTek's corporate headquarters in Chantilly, Va., Fergus said that even remote states such as South Dakota have access to the full gamut of available technologies. "There's no reason why the V.I. shouldn't have everything," he said.
"By allowing effective competition, the Virgin Islands will create a favorable climate where its citizens can be offered viable alternatives in terms of pricing, performance and quality of service, rather than being forced to accept today's reality of 'all or nothing,'" he said. "It will mean the freedom to choose what's in their best interest."
Born in Antigua, Fergus grew up on St. Croix in a Kingshill housing community where he lived with his mother. Calling himself "fortunate in many respects," he said that during the '70s, "the projects were actually the place to be." He graduated from Central High School in 1974 and then enlisted for four years in the U.S. Navy, where he became a telecommunications expert.
He received his bachelor's degree in electrical engineering from Norfolk State University in 1982 and went on to get his master's in the same field, from the University of Illinois.
Fergus then took a job with AT&T's Bell Labs, where he worked for nine years, eventually becoming a senior scientist. Having witnessed firsthand the breakup of the Bell monopoly, he left Bell Labs in 1990 to start Communications Technologies.
Fourteen years later, COMTek is one of the fastest growing telecommunications companies in America, with more than a thousand engineers and offices in 15 countries. In addition to telecommunications services, COMTek also provides information security software, managed services, training and training support.
"I was raised in the projects in the Virgin Islands," Fergus said. "Having to overcome the adversity of growing up in a low-technology economic environment has motivated me to pursue a successful career in engineering and build the successful telecommunications company I have today."
Last year COMTek won a contract through the Bank of America to design, install and maintain the networks of the V.I. Public Finance Authority. The firm also was tasked with troubleshooting problems with the Police Department's communications infrastructure. In this regard, Fergus said, vast improvements have been made, and all that needs to be done is to secure the radio frequencies.
While proud of these achievements in the Virgin Islands, Fergus indicated that he sees a bigger role for COMTek to play in providing V.I. residents with more telecommunications choices.
"The ground is ripe for the Virgin Islands to become a true leader," he said, "and by building a competitive information technology infrastructure, COMTek envisions businesses gaining access to more opportunities and employees learning new skills that result in better-paying jobs."
Fergus said he has been following the developments regarding Choice Communications and its ability to apply directly to the Federal Communications Commission for "eligible telecommunications carrier" status. (See Choice can go to FCC for status determination"
Although he declined to comment on whether COMTek would follow Choice's lead and apply directly to the FCC for carrier status, Fergus said COMTek has the ability to offer a broad array of broadband services including cable, voice and Internet. He added that COMTek will announce its plans "sooner than you might think."
"COMTek has made a strategic commitment to bring the winds of progress to the Virgin Islands," he said. "We look forward to working with both the private and public sectors to make this dream a reality. We know we have a long journey ahead of us, but it's a worthwhile investment in our community's future."
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