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GCI is improving broadband service in rural Alaska

Molly Dischner

General Communication Inc. is making progress on its TERRA expansions, which will improve broadband service in rural Alaska.

GCI launched high-speed broadband service in 16 Bristol Bay and Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta communities earlier this month, including Chevak, Hooper Bay and Russian Mission. Those were just the most recent additions as part of the TERRA-Southwest upgrades. In total, 40 communities have been added to the network this year, according to the company.

The extended service is the result of more than 400 miles of new fiber-optic cable and 13 microwave towers in rural Alaska.

The TERRA networks use a terrestrial connection, which reduces the latency inherent in satellite-based systems. That latency comes from the time it takes for communication between land-based users and satellites positioned above the earth.

According to GCI, the upgrade means that residents of those communities can opt for the terrestrial broadband service, which offers faster download speeds at a similar price as the satellite-based system.

The company is just beginning phase three of the TERRA-Northwest network, which will add six microwave sites between Shaktoolik and Kotzebue at a cost of about $28 million. That will extend the TERRA network 205 miles in Northwest Alaska.

"The main benefit of the (phase three) expansion of TERRA-NW will be higher speed, lower latency data service, supporting education, healthcare and internet, enhacing the quality of life and economic opportunity for rural communities throughout the Northwest Arctic Borough," said GCI President and Chief Executive Officer Ron Duncan.

Phase one of the Northwest component, which will extended the TERRA upgrades from Shageluk to Unalakleet and Shaktolik, is expected to be finished this December. Shageluk was the northern end of the TERRA-Southwest work.

Phase two will extend the network to Nome, and is scheduled for completion in December 2013.

GCI has applied for the permits for phase three, and expects to finish construction in 2014.

Broadband cable modem service is expected to reach Kotzebue by the end of October.


By MOLLY DISCHNER
Alaska Journal of Commerce