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September 13, 2010

Governor Announces an Additional $8.1 Million for Broadband Services

The Virgin Islands Public Finance Authority has been notified that an additional $8.1 million in Broadband Technology Opportunities Program was awarded from the Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration office. This allocation is part of Governor John P. de Jongh’s plan to expand the territory’s broadband initiatives. The additional NTIA grant funding is being made available as a result of a competitive application process under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

“Our success with all four NTIA broadband grants is a tremendous endorsement of our plan to transform the Virgin Islands to an improved information technology infrastructure,” de Jongh said Monday. “The awarded monies ensure that a broad range of our community has broadband access, while also building job opportunities and economic diversification for our small businesses,” he added. 

The completion of the ‘middle mile’ will allow private sector partners to expand their services in our community. These two grants will also ensure that our broadband initiative has broad appeal and applicability to those who want to access it for entertainment and leisure, job opportunities or to initiate a business venture. “The primary objective in accessing this federal funding source is to achieve, through the broadband technology sector, a game changer for the territory for generations to come,” the governor said Monday.

The monies will underwrite activities with public computer centers and sustainable broadband adoption that have as their objectives to:

  • Increase broadband subscribership and, through the V.I. Bureau of Economic Research, measure and report on this increase and business uptake in the territory’s broadband sector,
  • Stimulate economic growth through multifaceted public awareness campaigns,
  • Broaden and increase digital literacy and job skills in broadband technology throughout the territory,
  • Develop a call center job bank to provide assistance and training for job seekers with new information technology skills,
  • Establish and upgrade more than 40 public computer centers,
  • Provide access to more than 700 new computer workstations, training in computer literacy skills, HD teleconferencing capabilities, and other technology services for small businesses,
  • Deploy 420 of the new workstations as part of a unique telework program with program partner Better World to train island residents for work-at-home call center jobs. The National Education Foundation (NEF) will provide over $2 million of in-kind match to both programs through its on-line educational programs.

In May 2009, Governor de Jongh initiated a broadband public-private partnership and held several round table discussions that solicited input from local telecommunications providers, business, government, and not-for-profit providers on their needs and wants for broadband technology in the Virgin Islands. The PFA, through the Office of Economic Opportunity, and Stratum Broadband, Inc., its advisor, developed the strategy to coordinate and integrate all of the broadband areas of mapping, infrastructure, public awareness, and public reach through the computer centers into a well-coordinated approach that built upon the concept of the comprehensive “broadband” community. 

A month ago, the governor announced that the Virgin Islands was awarded $58.8 million in funding under the federal stimulus legislation’s Broadband Technology Opportunities Program to improve and expand broadband services throughout the Virgin Islands with an emphasis on connecting schools as well as libraries, the university as well as hospitals and other government agencies while at the same time, expanding services to residential subscribers. 

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