MTA plans to end 'outdated' service for rural Mat-Su customers
The Matanuska Telephone Association (MTA) wants to stop service for some rural customers.
In an application to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), MTA requests to end its Basic Exchange Telecommunications Radio Service, or BETRS.
In the petition, MTA says BETRS “only serves 215 customers on this outdated technology.”
Mike Williams owns the EagleSong Family Peony Farm on Trail Lake near the Susitna River. He said BETRS provides a stable line of communication that allows his company to do business internationally even though they’re 40 miles off the road system.
“If I can’t communicate with my customers, I don’t have a business,” Williams said.
Williams says BETRS users call it “fixed wireless.” He said the system is a phone wired to an antenna that points the nearest tower.
“Essentially it’s a cell phone but it’s fixed to one given site,” Williams explained.
The company's public affairs manager, Jackie Kenshalo said improvements in technology have made that system obsolete.
"The wireless industry has changed dramatically since our fixed wireless system was installed and the equipment is very outdated and we're not able to service it any longer," said Kenshalo.
Williams said he understands it’s a high cost for a service that few people need, but said customers who have fixed wireless rely on it.
“We chose to live here and there are some things we’re willing to give up but it’s hard to give up something you’ve had for so long that’s so basic,” said Williams. “I’m not asking for Snapchat or anything like that. I just want to be able to pick up the phone and call when I need to.”
MTA provided five alternatives for customers: AT&T, Hughes Net Satellite Service, Exede Satellite Service (now known as Viasat), GCI or Verizon.
Williams said many of those have been out there for years but are not reliable options for many people off the grid.
MTA’s alternatives plan said Verizon is not available for customers in the Alexander Creek area; Hughes net requires a $700 dish and “tree cover can be an issue.” On Exede’s website it states voice service is not available in Alaska.
The company sent notices to customers on Dec. 28, 2017, offering people a one-time payment of $400 if they transferred service by Feb. 28, 2018.
"We understand their frustrations and tried to make it smoother of a transition," Kenshalo said.
MTA plans to discontinue BETRS on June 1, 2018.
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