GCI to receive $41M in federal money to improve rural Alaska wireless

Tegan Hanlon

The Federal Communications Commission announced last week that General Communication, Inc., will receive $41.4 million in federal funding to advance the wireless networks in 48 rural Alaskan communities.

For the first time, more than 37,000 Alaskans will have access to 3G or 4G mobile broadband networks, an upgrade from the lagging 2G wireless available in most rural communities, said David Morris, GCI spokesman.

"Depending on where you came from, 2G is an extremely limited experience for a customer," Morris said. "You really start to experience wireless data at 3G and 4G speeds."

The telecommunications provider introduced basic cellphone service in some rural communities as recently as four years ago. "They're already impatient for data services," Morris said.

GCI is now awaiting a contract to finalize the funding from the FCC's Tribal Mobility Fund. After that, Morris expects the projects to take between two and three years, depending on the types of data capabilities deployed.

"The checks not in the mail right now, but there's no reason to expect that we won't receive the money," he said.

The FCC created the Tribal Mobility Fund in 2011, with aims to award up to $50 million in one-time subsidies to companies that agreed to build enhanced broadband networks in underserved tribal lands. GCI submitted bids about 15 months ago. Awarded communities include Aniak, Barrow, Kotzebue and Russian Mission.

For a full list check: http://wireless.fcc.gov/auctions/902/reports/902_all_bids.pdf

Reach Tegan Hanlon at thanlon@adn.com or 257-4589.