Rural Alaska

Severed cable off Arctic Alaska repaired, restoring internet and cellular service

Quintillion’s subsea fiber optic cable cut — which for months has challenged communications across northern Alaska — has been repaired, the broadband provider said Tuesday.

“Service to customers has been fully restored,” Quintillion said in a statement.

It might still take time for some residents to see improvements to their internet and cell service as telecom providers such as GCI transition back to using the fiber system. Several other providers have already restored their fiber service in northern communities.

The breakage happened out of Oliktok Point west of Prudhoe Bay in the middle of June when sea ice severed the cable. The issue caused internet and cell outages in several North Slope and Northwest Arctic communities and affected thousands of Alaskans.

Quintillion planned to repair the cut in about two months but had to wait for the ice to clear to get to the site, company President Michael “Mac” McHale has said. On Aug. 25, they started the multimillion-dollar repair to the cable, which is buried about 10 to 12 feet below the seabed floor, under 90 feet of water.

[Subsea fiber repairs are underway off Arctic Alaska, but when services will be restored is unknown]

A 42-member repair crew retrieved the shoreside cable that runs south from the Beaufort Sea, prepared it for future repair and placed it back on the seabed floor, McHale said. Then, for more than 10 days, they focused on retrieving the seaside aspect of the cable, excavating the seabed floor in low visibility and harsh weather conditions. The last step was to bring the shoreside cable back up and repair the middle section by connecting the two points with new fiber.


Almost a month after beginning work on the severed cable, Quintillion announced that the repairs were complete.

The company said it now plans to focus on improving the resiliency and sustainability of the Quintillion network.

While the fiber cut is fixed, some telecom providers using the Quintillion system might still need time to switch back to the fiber network and improve internet and cell service to residents, McHale said.

GCI is among the providers that are transitioning their customers in northern Alaska back to fiber service, company spokeswoman Heather Handyside said.

“It may take a few days to complete the transition but customers in Nome and Kotzebue are already seeing greatly improved internet speeds,” Handyside said.

North Slope provider Arctic Slope Telephone Association Cooperative had reverted to the original fiber network by Tuesday evening, said Rebecca Kunugguk Sparks, ASTAC communications manager. OTZ Telecommunications, which serves Kotzebue, also moved back to fiber from satellite, company CEO Kelly Williams said.

“It definitely is a better quality of service,” Williams said about the fiber network. “But we’re keeping those satellite services in place for now” as a backup.

Alena Naiden

Alena Naiden writes about communities in the North Slope and Northwest Arctic regions for the Arctic Sounder and ADN. Previously, she worked at the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner.