viNGN Expands Service, Public Computer Centers

In the month since their last meeting, the V.I. Next Generation Network officials and board members said Wednesday they have been working to increase the number of public computer centers in the territory and to expand service to local businesses.

The target for the number of public computer centers was 28, a goal that viNGN officials said was met last month, but work continues on an additional five centers they said should be online by the end of next week. Four sites – Central Seventh Day Adventist and Mon Bijou on St. Croix, along with Bovoni and the Lucinda Millin Home on St. Thomas – were in need of extra renovations, while a fifth site in Frederiksted came on late and is now being outfitted, board members said.

Now that viNGN has wrapped up its contract with CyberLearning to offer free digital literacy courses to residents, the network is now promoting classes through Khan Academy, according to viNGN’s vice president of marketing, Kevin Hughes.

Hughes said that while the digital literacy classes were offered, 2,500 residents were trained, and more than 4,000 had signed up; some are still in the process of completing their certificates, he said.

“Overall we had great success with that program and the target has been achieved,” Hughes told board members.

Within the computer centers, viNGN teams have also been installing programs that track incoming traffic, that give site administrators more control and that offer incentives to seniors and residents with disabilities.

Hughes said that, in order to promote increased use of the network and continuing digital literacy, PCC site managers will receive a laptop computer, along with seniors and residents with disabilities that have completed the training program. The residents will be selected through software that will randomly pick them for the reward, Hughes said.

In all, 120 laptops have been ordered.

Larry Kupfer, viNGN president, told board members Wednesday that the company is working with federal agencies to push back the closeout deadline on its comprehensive community infrastructure grant – which funds the construction of the greater broadband network – until January.

In regards to anchor institutions, Kupfer said 318 have so far been hooked up, with 270 ready for service.

Network officials added that service has been expanded to local businesses, including the Divi Carina Bay Resort on St. Croix. There are currently 92 businesses, offices and other professional organizations interested in hooking up, Kupfer said, adding that viNGN is working on getting them “connected to our fiber.”

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