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ST. THOMAS - A local company said it will invest $70 million to expand fiber-optic networks for Internet service and create 80 to 100 permanent jobs.
Orbitel, LLC, is owned by St. Croix resident Todd Klindworth, who plans to base the company's headquarters on St. Croix. Orbitel will offer fiber-optic connectivity for homes and businesses to tap into the V.I. Next Generation Network's high-speed network and said it will have its infrastructure completed by July 31.
The Klindworth family has built other telecommunications and cable television companies throughout the Caribbean and globally, according to a statement issued Friday by Government House.
The venture will provide 150 jobs during the construction phase, scheduled to begin in June, and will provide up to 100 permanent jobs in the territory, according to Klindworth.
Orbitel's network will extend to all homes and businesses in the territory and will accommodate broadband speeds of up to 100 megabits per second, allowing for services such as high-definition television, video on demand, voice over protocol and "real time security monitoring services," Klindworth said in the prepared statement.
Orbitel has submitted a franchise request for cable television to the V.I. Public Services Commission. The company also hopes to use its network to provide the V.I. Water and Power Authority with remote net metering, according to the statement.
V.I. Next Generation Network President and CEO Lawrence Kupfer said the fiber-optic network, established in 2010 using four grants from the Commerce Department, was designed to attract companies like Orbitel by creating a physical infrastructure and offering bandwidth at wholesale rates to smaller service providers.
"This would be an example of the way the federal government intended to open up markets within the Virgin Islands to competition by making it easier for other companies to move in and provide service utilizing the Virgin Islands Next Generation Network middle mile network," Kupfer said Friday.
"Middle mile" refers to the network infrastructure connecting the global fiber-optic network to local service providers.
Kupfer said Orbitel's method of creating fiber-optic cable lines branching from the Next Generation Network ring to homes and businesses will provide advantages over wireless networks used by other providers in terms of connection speeds and capacity.
Klindworth recently met with Gov. John deJongh Jr. about his investment in the territory.
"I welcome the investment by Orbitel as another step forward is taken in the effort to bring affordable Internet access to residents of the Virgin Islands," deJongh said in the prepared statement. "One of my primary goals with the viNGN middle-mile broadband network development was to make affordable high-speed Internet access available to all in our territory and this investment gets us ever closer to that goal."