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Saturday, January 28, 2023
HomeNewsArchivesBoard Announces 'Significant Progress' on viNGN Project

Board Announces 'Significant Progress' on viNGN Project

The Virgin Islands Next Generation Network announced Wednesday it had made significant progress in many areas of the high speed broadband Internet network project, including the territorywide trenching operations and awarding of construction services contracts for fiber optic cabling,

At its Wednesday meeting, the viNGN board also learned the matching-fund requirements for the territory’s infrastructure grant have been reduced. The board also reviewed the marketing plan and materials for the public computer centers in the territory.

Board members were told the trenching construction is on schedule, with 12.4 miles of new trench work completed on St. Croix and St. Thomas. The total amount of trench work that has been finished territorywide to date is one quarter of the total to be completed on the two islands.

The board members also gave the OK to two local construction contracts totaling $6.6 million. The contract awards are for the installation of fiber optic cables to the more than 300 community anchor institutions in the territory. With the approval of these construction awards, the total of construction service awards in the U.S. Virgin Islands has reached $31.8 million.

Vicki Johnson, director of the V.I. Office of Economic Opportunity, told the viNGN board that the National Telecommunications & Information Administration had approved the agency’s request for a reduction in the project’s matching fund requirements.

The NTIA, which is the territory’s federal partner in the national Broadband Technology Opportunities Program, approved the request based upon the progress made by the viNGN board and the viNGN operations team’s management during the implementation phase of the project. The NTIA has increased its match for the Comprehensive Community Infrastructure Grant from 67 to 80 percent.

The approval of the increased matching funds by NTIA means that viNGN and the V.I. government will save almost $10 million, with the territory’s match dropping from $14.14 million to $4.25 million. The originally required $15.25 million of in-kind matching funds from the Water and Power Authority will now only be $10.5 million in in-kind matching funds. The total budget for the project is $73.6 million and the federal match is $58.9 million, the viNGN’s news release says.

The viNGN board members also were updated on the marketing plan for the public computer centers throughout the territory. With seven centers already online and more to open soon, viNGN will begin to aggressively market the access and availability of the PCC’s to the general public, the news release said.

The viNGN will push to increase foot traffic to each of the PCCs so that residents can take advantage of online access to such programs as the “Digital Literacy” training course to non-PCC users, which will enable users to participate in the training course from wherever they desire.

The viNGN is a corporate subsidiary of the Public Finance Authority responsible for oversight of development of the “middle mile” fiber network. The fiber optic cables will run along all major roads in the territory, with private Internet service providers able to connect to the network and sell higher capacity Internet access to their customers on the retail market at a lower price.

The project is partially funded through four grants awarded the territory by the Broadband Technology Opportunity Program of the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration. In April 2011 the Legislature approved issuing a $38 million bond as a required matching contribution.

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