US Virgin Islands electricity almost back up, yet struggles with internet

Like a tale of two islands, while Puerto Rico wrangles to establish electricity, the US Virgin Islands is almost restored.

However, the Internet is another story. Viya, the territory’s largest Internet service provider only revived 24 percent of the island’s Internet.

Just months ago, in August and September of 2017, the U.S.V.I. was in almost complete darkness following two direct hits by Category 5 hurricanes within a week.

By December, debris still piled along roads, and blue tarp on the roofs of most homes served as shelter against hard rains and the hot sun. Some residents, exhausted by slow recovery efforts, hoped to have power for the Christmas holidays.

Experts say that U.S.V.I. endured more damage than Puerto Rico. Though the island struggled with basic aid, its needs were overshadowed by the political war in Puerto Rico, over emergency assistance. So underserved, the Congressional Black Caucus publicly demanded that the federal government prioritize U.S.V.I. too.

The good thing is that the three-island territory made up of St. John, St. Croix, and the main island, St. Thomas, had a sturdier infrastructure.

Slow, Steady Recovery

Although the significantly less populated Caribbean region was severely battered and bruised, the recovery is measured, but consistently ongoing.

With $800 in federal loans, the U.S.V.I. government, led by Governor Kenneth Mapp, still work around the clock to rebuild its infrastructure – a series of projects that will take years.

Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands

On the other hand, the internet sputters towards restoration.

Viya’s CEO, Alvaro Pilar says that their island-wide repairs lag behind water and electricity, which is running at 99 percent, because it is a private company that does not receive public funding like other utilities.

In November 2017, the FCC approved $77 million to fix telecommunication services. Puerto Rico received far more with about $67 million of the funds. For U.S.V.I. Viya received $9,651,894 of those monies.

As the island works around its internet issues, residents know that it is only a matter of time. U.S.V.I. has a one of fastest broadband connections in the Western Hemisphere with an impressive high-speed fiber optic network.

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