The Virgin Islands Public Finance Authority has received $58.0M in ARRA (American Recovery & Reinvestment Act) funds to improve broadband infrastructure in the islands. Congresswoman Donna M. Christensen said the award, with nearly $29.4 million in matching contributions, will allow the PFA to offer affordable middle-mile broadband service on St. Thomas, St. Croix and St. John.
The project, which is titled the viNGN Comprehensive Community Infrastructure Program, calls for deploying a high-speed fiber network to all three islands, creating a territory-wide middle mile network and connecting community anchor institutions with reliable high-speed Internet services. The project also intends to strengthen the territory’s external broadband connections through acquisition of 3,720 miles of undersea cable to Florida and Puerto Rico. The viNGN will construct a 244-mile fiber network and utilize over 3,000 miles of existing fiber to offer speeds between 10 Mbps and 10 Gbps to anchor institutions and local Internet service providers.
The Virgin Islands has also received a federal grant to help acquire 2 new 300-passenger ferries to place in service between St Thomas and St John. The current funds, $200,000, from the Federal Highway Administration, will go toward acquiring two new or refurbished ferry boats for the Red Hook-Cruz Bay route. This amount will be added to $5,186,686 collected in previous awards for the purchase. The proposed new passenger ferries would be the property of the local government, which plans to lease them to ferry franchise operators on the route.
The St. Thomas-St. Croix route is also part of the federal highway system, V.I. Public Works Commissioner Darryl Smalls said. He explained Public Works continues to apply for federal funding to purchase a boat for that route but has not yet been successful. The nature of the St. Thomas-St. Croix route requires a different type and size of boat.
Government House announced an additional grant of $500,000, a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration award to St. Croix to support improvements to traffic safety information systems.
Our economy continues to expand, and our government to lay the infrastructure to support future growth.