The Love City Community Network, an ad hoc group that formed on St. John to provide telecommunications and internet service after Hurricane Irma battered the island and cut it off from the world, is reducing its expenditures and by Oct. 1 will not have any employees, turning to volunteers to continue its services.
The news came Thursday in an email from Devin J. Murphy, the executive director of the group, to clients, supporters and partners. The email’s subject was “LCCN’s future and service updates” and was sent in response to a decision last week by the Department of Licensing and Consumer Affairs denying their request to have members pay a monthly fee for their service.
While the organization began the process of amending their nonprofit paperwork to meet DLCA’s requirements, Murphy announced that “a commitment to help fund our ongoing expenses until the end of hurricane season fell through.”
That, Murphy said, puts the organization “in the precarious position of having to perform minute-by-minute accounting in order to pay our hard working field technicians and keep the network running, while many other staff members including myself volunteered to forego their pay.”
Murphy said LCCN is scaling back its efforts in several areas so that it can be best positioned to continue its mission, laying out the following steps:
Effective Sept. 1
– Core staff will no longer be paid and will balance their new livelihoods with as many volunteer hours as they can comfortably commit.
– Tech support will be reduced. Murphy said members can continue to reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org, but asked them to be patient with the volunteers.
– There will be no new installations in Viya-restored areas. Coral Bay and points east of Gifft Hill will be connected by our part-time installation staff who remain employed as funds allow and demand in this area continues.
Effective Oct. 1
– Home and business connections will be transitioned to “standby mode,” and speeds will be reduced to rates suitable for basic internet connectivity. “No more streaming,” Murphy wrote.
– LCCN will seek crowd-funding to cover its $8,000 monthly Viya bill and $1,000 in rent and utilities.
– Any additional revenue will be focused on free public hotspots ready for emergency deployment.
LCCN sprang into existence in the weeks following Hurricane Irma’s assault on St. John, when the island was cut off from the rest of the world. The volunteers came together to create a network when the territory’s utilities were not able to provide service, setting up Wifi hotspots that were “off the grid,” using high tech radios and antennas to transmit its service.
LCCN’s installation of a distribution site at Ajax Peak this spring brought internet connectivity to people living in Coral Bay. Viya and other commercial internet service providers have yet to reach customers at that end of St. John.
Shared content for Virgin Islands Source and St. John Tradewinds.