Alaska News

Project to deliver high-speed Internet to Alaska Arctic ramps up

The main part of a project that aims to deliver high-speed Internet to Northern and Western Alaska will get underway this summer, the first piece of a broader plan to connect Asia and Europe via a fiber-optic cable that cuts through the Arctic Ocean.

Stretching across the top of Alaska from Prudhoe Bay to Nome, cable will be laid on the seafloor anywhere from 10 miles to 75 miles off Alaska's northern and western coasts starting in June, and it should take about 3 1/2 months to finish.

The submarine fiber-optic broadband cable project is an effort led by Anchorage-based Quintillion Networks, which will build, own and operate the network. Cooper Investment Partners, a New York-based investment firm, is the lead investor.

Once complete, the infrastructure is expected to provide much faster Internet service for communities around these areas, and service from the deep-sea cable will be available early next year.

"It's basically in contrast to technology available there now, which is satellite and microwave," said Tim Woolston, a spokesman for Quintillion. "Fiber is 21st century technology, it's much faster."

The project was originally led by Canadian company Arctic Fibre, but Quintillion acquired the assets of Arctic Fibre last year, Woolston said. Original investors in Arctic Fibre still have an interest in the project, he said.

The Alaska portion of the project is just one standalone piece of a much larger effort to eventually connect Asia and Europe through the Arctic. Phase one of the project is the Alaska portion. Phase two would connect Asia with Alaska -- eventually landing in Tokyo -- and phase three would tie Alaska with Europe via London. Phases two and three still need to be finalized, and financing is separate for each phase.

Woolston said a Quintillion affiliate is also constructing a terrestrial fiber-optic cable between Fairbanks and Prudhoe Bay, which will provide a fiber link between the Lower 48 and the Arctic. That cable is also scheduled to be operational in early 2017.

That terrestrial cable will run both underground and overland along the Dalton Highway.

Construction is also needed to put conduits in place to connect cable from the main submarine fiber-optic cable offshore to the communities of Barrow, Point Hope and Oliktok Point near Prudhoe Bay. That work will happen in the spring, and has already been completed at Nome, Kotzebue and Wainwright.