Sunday, May 19, 2013
High-Speed Internet Project for Rural Alaska Reaches Milestone
More than 60 rural villages will soon have access to the same level of broadband services as urban cities.
Most of people don’t think twice when logging onto the Internet. In fact, our society does not find waiting for uploads acceptable. Southwestern Alaskans have never had the same luxury - but by December that’s all changing.
TERRA-SW, led by United Utilities, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of GCI, is bringing high-speed broadband service to Bristol Bay and the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta Region.
Soon, 65 rural villages will be equally connected with the rest of the world. Thursday, federal, state and local officials gathered in Dillingham to celebrate this milestone for Alaska’s future in Internet services.
Unlike Alaska’s bigger cities, the southwest uses a satellite to get their Internet.
“It doesn’t work the way it does in Chicago or Seattle or Anchorage and we will be able to bring to them a service that is comparable to all those urban services,” said Curtiss Clifton, GCI corporate relations senior manager.
Clifton said that rural Alaskans have never seen the differences between satellite and broadband due to their limitations in communication.
TERRA-SW is funded with an $88 million loan/grant combination from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Utilities Service Broadband Initiatives Program, established by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, also known as the stimulus plan.
Clifton said that although the project is moving a year ahead of schedule, it’s not been an easy road - considering most of the villages being worked on aren’t physically connected.
“What this will do is bring the same level of broadband services [in the lower 48], to 65 communities, to 30,000 people, 72 health clinics, 65 schools, two hospitals… it is a big number and it’s big service, and it’s fast service,” Clifton said.
By the end of 2011, GCI reports the system will be operational, which means schools, clinics and hospitals will have full access to the service. The company said that by 2012, broadband services will be accessible in people’s homes.
Clifton said GCI also plans to expand high-speed Internet services beyond southwest Alaska to cover the entire state.