VINGN Broadband—Heros Villains and Losers

Our government passed a law to float $38 Million in bonds to secure $68 Million in federal funds for a venture called VI Next Generation Network (VINGN). Without going into the details of the deal, the reasonable question to ask is why did we do this when infrastructure needs such as our schools & students remain subpar, and our roads are in still in a terrible state of disrepair? Further, to add insult to injury, there was an all day, island-wide power failure on Good Friday just days after the bill was passed which seemed to be a very appropriate punctuation to the folly that is VINGN.

First, what is broadband? The term ‘Broadband’ has never been formally defined, even though it is used widely as a marketing term & is the topic of many debates. Simply, it’s a range of frequencies over which data like morse code, voice, music, & video can be transmitted through either wired phone lines, wireless, power lines, or fiber-optic networks. It refers to telecommunications where a wide band of frequencies is available to send information. The data gets multiplexed and sent on many different frequencies or channels at the same time, allowing more information to be sent in a given amount of time; similar to more lanes on a highway allowing more cars to travel in the same direction, at the same time.

Virgin Islanders, can you name ANY government entity that is financially sound? WAPA? VIPA? VIWMA? VIHA? etc? Does anyone really think that VINGN can survive annual audits without finding misuse of funds? We continue to fail to understand that there is no free lunch!

The heroes are Senators O’Reilly, Nelson & James. All three had the backbone to ask the hard questions about our territorial priorities & show real leadership in this lost debate. My question to Mr Francis: How do you go to a hearing to secure a $38 Million loan from taxpayers & not know the details of the business plan you are there to defend? O’Reilly asked & you couldn’t answer? That was a huge red flag screaming that the business plan is flawed! There are other flaws, conflicts & concerns, but that performance alone should have been enough to just say NO to this VINGN folly.

The cowards are Senators Barshinger & Sprauve. Both will have ‘plausible deniability’ because they didn’t vote. They didn’t take a stand. You’ll see that in the next election cycle and I predict that they will be voted out of office in 2012 for lack of backbone.

As I see it, the villains in this continuing drama are Senators Dowe, Hill, Hansen, Malone, White, Sanes, Russell, Richards, Williams & Young. Also among this list are the primary characters in VINGN, both in the forefront & in the background. I wonder what promises were made to secure support for this slush fund. What I got out of this was a sense that some of these players feel that they are ‘untouchable’… the question is, which one is the designated ‘patsy’ if we show the backbone to independently audit VINGN annually? Or perhaps there really is a problem with our election system which would spur them to act in such a ‘bulletproof’ manner.

Do we have broadband? Yes! There are several private sector companies in the territory providing the service. Our subscriber market, rather population, that can support broadband is small relative to any stateside market that has millions of subscribers & competition to drive down costs. Has anyone asked what happens when when the ‘free’ government money runs out since the business plan presented is flawed? Will the market have grown? Nope; therefore costs will go up for everyone. The feds are broke so don’t look there.

Why do we need VINGN? We don’t. That’s the dirty little secret. Our politicians are grabbing at the $68 Million the feds have dangled before our territory & rather than work with the feds to either re-program it for more pressing basic needs, or simply decline the money; just like the feds, we are borrowing money the territory can ill afford.

In any case, now that this broadband measure has passed. Follow the money, the timing & the players as they jockey for position over the next two election cycles. The executive branch already has cover as a lame duck administration and the delegate to congress remains silent.

Oh by the way, the losers are the taxpayers of the US Virgin Islands as yet another hurricane season approaches.

vince danet
St Thomas, VI

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