Outgoing USVI governor vetoes ‘Dig Once’ fibre legislation

10 Jan 2019

In one of his last acts in charge, Kenneth Mapp, the outgoing governor of the US Virgin Islands, vetoed the contentious ‘Dig Once’ legislation (Bill 32-0204) that would have mandated any government entity digging to install underground conduits to either ensure the conduit is big enough to accommodate multiple communications providers – or allow a communications provider to install its own conduit at the same time.

Mapp said the bill could have made the territory liable for the USD90 million in federal funding used to build the Virgin Islands Next Generation Network (viNGN), which went live back in July 2015. He commented: ‘If this bill were to become law, it would violate the provisions of a metropolitan owned network. In essence, this measure allows commercial ISP companies to access into viNGN’s middle-mile network conduit, which was paid for by National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) funds and USVI matching funds bonds. Signing this measure into law would effectively relinquish viNGN’s metropolitan network to commercial ISPs.’ He added that following Hurricanes Irma and Maria in September 2017 the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) accepted that viNGN is a governmental entity and is providing financial resources for its reinforcement and repair.

The bill was supported by local full-service operator Viya, which would have benefitted from the provisions. The viNGN management opposed the bill, arguing it would give Viya an unfair advantage over other ISPs – a claim the telco refuted.

Mr Mapp ran for a second term in 2018’s gubernatorial vote but was defeated in the run-off vote by Democrat Albert Bryan. Bryan, who previously served as commissioner of the USVI Department of Labour, assumed office on 7 January 2019.