The Bureau of Information Technology is seeking V.I. government funding of $2.29 million for Fiscal Year 2017- up a little from the FY16 appropriation of $2.1 million, BIT Director Reuben Molloy told the Senate Finance Committee on Wednesday.
The BIT is also requesting $3.39 million in a miscellaneous appropriation to cover Microsoft licensing for government software and $1.2 million for leases and maintenance on communication tower sites in the territory, including electricity and fuel costs for generators at 15 sites. This brings the BIT’s total budget request to $5.67 million.
BIT is acting as an internet service provider, giving government agencies very fast broadband service at a very low price by continuing to move V.I. executive branch agencies onto the V.I. Next Generation Network. The viNGN is a V.I. government-owned, high-speed, fiber-optic internet backbone, built with federal grants.
While the process "has been slow," Molloy said BIT currently serves as an ISP for the Office of the Governor, Bureau of Corrections, Department of Agriculture and the Department of Planning and Natural Resources. Some delays are due to unexpired contracts with private ISPs, the work involved in designing departmental networks and lack of staff, he said.
"Nonetheless, BIT has facilitated the network migration and configuration of the Department of Human Services, Virgin Islands Fire Service, Department of Tourism, Bureau of Motor Vehicles, Department of Finance, Department of Public Works, Department of Justice and the Lieutenant Governor’s Office
to the viNGN broadband infrastructure," Molloy said. Overall the changes have increased bandwidth from 90Mbps to 3000Mbps while decreasing costs from $18,860/month to $10,140/month, he said.
Some entities, including the Department of Education and the V.I. National Guard, are not moving to viNGN for reasons of federal funding requirements, Molloy said.
Currently BIT has video conferencing systems able to provide 45 simultaneous high definition connections. Some agencies have access now, and if more come on board, it will save money by reducing travel time and costs, Molloy said.
Law Enforcement Planning Commission Director Franz Christian also presented that small agency’s budget of $827,602.
The LEPC is designated by the governor of the Virgin Islands as the State Administering Agency, which means it is the liaison with the U.S. Department of Justice and the Office of Justice programs. It overseas a variety of federal grants. Christian said LEPC will manage $7.7 million of federal funds over the nest four years.
The commission currently manages the Justice Assistance Grant, Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Grants, Victims of Crime Assistance Grant, Violence Against Women Grant, Residential Substance Abuse Treatment Grant and enforcement of the underage drinking laws.
No votes were taken during the information gathering hearing. Present were Sens. Clifford Graham, Marvin Blyden, Myron Jackson, Tregenza Roach, Kurt Vialet and Sammuel Sanes. Sen. Positive Nelson was absent. Sen. Kenneth Gittens also attended the hearing.