High-Powered Communications at UVI's RTPark Expected to Bring High-Paying Jobs

April 30, 2007 — Technological improvements for the UVI Research and Technology Park (RTPark) will greatly improve communication speed and power and should help bring high-paying jobs to St. Croix, park officials said Monday.
RTPark announced that it has entered into an arrangement with international telecommunications provider Global Crossing for high-capacity broadband connectivity and a connection center (known as "collocation space") within its fiber-switching facilities north of Frederiksted on St. Croix.
The agreement also envisions collaborative marketing, business development and operational-services initiatives. Sources at Global Crossing described the agreement as a lease of about 200 square feet of space and an arrangement to provide bandwidth for a router farm — a system for numerous computers to access that bandwidth.
“This agreement provides unique strategic benefits to RTPark and the U.S. Virgin Islands,” said David M. Zumwalt, executive director of RTPark. “It is a key milestone in our mandate to facilitate e-commerce, digital content and transaction-processing businesses in the USVI. We are pleased to be leading the effort to position these facilities to support a growing technology sector in the territory, a crucial component to economic development and diversification."
The mandate of the RTPark is to encourage the development of a sustainable-technology sector in the local economy, he said.
“Our intent is to create jobs,” Zumwaldt said. “Not just jobs but high-paying jobs; careers …. It is a pretty tall order, but what makes us believe it is achievable is we are awash in bandwidth.”
That sea of bandwidth is broad indeed. One of two major data-trunk cables landing on St. Croix, the Global Crossing cable carries the bulk of all communications in and out of the Virgin Islands. Large portions of Latin American telecommunications flow through that cable and a portion of it — eight conduits — come ashore north of Frederiksted. Global Crossing’s beachhead on St. Croix links the territory to its ring circling South America and, in essence, the whole world. According to Global Crossing, 70 percent of Latin American overseas phone traffic flies over that cable.
Here's the rundown for technically minded people: Each of those 8 conduits can handle 64 STM1 connections. An STM1 can transmit 155 megabits per second. That is 100 times the capacity of the better-known T1 connection that many businesses use to connect an entire office building to broadband. The currently available capacity from Global Crossing is equivalent to 51,200 T1s. Sources at Global Crossing say their capacity will increase over the next year.
For people less technically minded, that’s a whole bunch. But all that bandwidth does not go all over the island. A small number of businesses connect with Global Crossing at its facility near the cable’s beach head, and can have as much capacity there as they want. Elsewhere on the island, businesses get connections principally through either Innovative’s infrastructure or, to a lesser extent, Broadband VI.
Because the RTPark is to be built at UVI, the park itself will be able to handle most e-commerce businesses, but not ones that use gigantic amounts of very-fast bandwidth. Basically, businesses have two choices: They can purchase extremely fast, extremely broad and extremely reliable bandwidth directly from Global Crossing, but must be located right there by Global Crossing. Or they can purchase pretty fast, fairly broad bandwidth through an intermediary such as Innovative or Broadband VI. By entering into an agreement with Global Crossing, the RTPark is ensuring they have a stake in the potential of that giant pipeline.
“With access to Global Crossing’s tier-1 broadband network, RTPark offers a unique opportunity for bandwidth-based businesses to improve competitiveness and value, through a combination of economic incentives, world-class telecommunications infrastructure and the territory’s benefits and protections under the U.S. flag,” Zumwaldt said.
The RTPartk is an economic-development initiative begun by the university that officials hope will ultimately provide jobs and tax revenue. UVI has set aside 10 acres on its St. Croix campus for the park’s buildings and infrastructure. Plans for the technology park began in 2001, and in 2002 the Legislature passed a charter and provided initial funding. It will offer businesses buildings built with their needs in mind, very substantial tax benefits through the Economic Development Commission and access to the resources of the university.
To date, the Legislature has appropriated more than $6 million for developing the project. The Public Finance Authority has set aside another $7 million for construction, which will not begin to disburse until all the designs, plans and permits are in place.
Although in the works for a number of years, the RTPark has been delayed several times. In 2005, strict new federal rules governing source income for companies receiving Economic Development Commission tax benefits cast a shadow over potential investment at the park. Last fall, the U.S. Department of Treasury issued a clarification of some of those rules, making it clear that many types of e-commerce could receive EDC benefits at the park. A week ago, the RTPark announced a contract with Aramark to manage the park. Denise Kurg, director of facilities and operations for the technology park, said last week they anticipate breaking ground within the next six months.
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