Buggs Island working to bring Wi-Fi to south-central Va.Published 11:18am Wednesday, May 8, 2013
WASHINGTON, D.C.—The South Hill company working on a wireless, high-speed Internet system for 15 south-central Virginia counties, including Southampton and Isle of Wight, has been informed by the federal government agency overseeing the project that it is partially lifting the suspension of the grant award.
Juliana Gruenwald, press secretary for National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), said Tuesday, “NTIA partially lifted in late March its suspension of the Buggs Island Telephone BTOP grant. This will allow it to focus on pursuing a business partner who can assist with long-term sustainability.”
The federal government in January ordered the company to stop working, and asked for financial records and staffing plans to ensure it would provide the service. Buggs Island received an $18.9 million federal stimulus grant to build the system and had spent $15.1 million, according to a report filed last September with NTIA when the project was at 80 percent completion.
In a letter to Buggs Island Telephone dated March 26 from the U.S. Department of Commerce, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Office of Acquisition and Grants, it states that NTIA has recommended that NOAA grants office partially lift the suspension of the BTOP award “in order for Buggs Island Telephone Cooperative to secure a third-party partner to address technical, organizational and financial concerns with its BTOP-funded project and to complete federal reporting requirements.”
The letter, signed by Arlene Simpson Porter, director of NOAA Grants Management Division, further stated the NOAA is extending the grant award period to Sept. 30 of this year.
Porter’s letter also said, ”I understand that Buggs Island is currently in discussions with potential partners and these negotiations must be concluded timely—and address the outstanding Corrective Actions Plan (CAP) issues—in order for the suspension to be fully lifted.”
In her letter to Michelle Taylor, South Hill manager with BIT Communications, Porter said, “The Buggs Island Telephone Cooperative will remain on agency review status.”
In 2009, Buggs Island Telephone Cooperative received the stimulus grant to build the system. The company also received $3.9 million from the Virginia Tobacco Indemnification and Community Revitalization Commission. BIT had planned to launch the service in September of last year.