The Arctic Sounder

Another break in fiber network causes temporary internet and cell service outage in Arctic Alaska

Residents in several northern Alaska communities experienced cell and internet service disruptions Tuesday after another fiber optic breakage.

Broadband provider Quintillion noticed an outage after 11 p.m. Monday, company CEO George Tronsrue said. The breakage happened between Oliktok Point and the Greater Kuparuk Area, about 40 miles west of Prudhoe Bay, Quintillion President Michael “Mac” McHale said.

The outage affected all of Quintillion’s markets, Tronsrue said. Telecom companies such as Alaska Communications, GCI, AT&T, OTZ Telecommunications and Arctic Slope Telephone Association Cooperative all rely on Quintillion’s fiber network.

The break happened in an area with ongoing oil and gas maintenance and development, Tronsrue said.

“Quintillion’s team at the site determined that one of the fibers on this Quintillion route was broken due to environmental conditions in the Kuparuk River oil-and-gas operating area,” McHale said.

Quintillion reconfigured the network and temporarily restored service as of Tuesday afternoon, McHale said. The company was continuing permanent repair work to address the damage to the fiber cable to avoid another outage, but it was unclear how long a permanent fix might take.

Last summer, the company spent months repairing a subsea fiber optic cable cut that disrupted cell and internet service across northern Alaska.


GCI customers in Nome, Kotzebue, Utqiagvik and Wainwright experienced slower internet and wireless service, said spokesman Josh Edge. The company was transitioning services in affected communities to backup network infrastructure on Tuesday, he said.

In Atqasuk, Point Hope, Utqiagvik and Wainwright, ASTAC customers had experienced an all-services network outage, which includes internet, cellular and long-distance service, the company said.

Other North Slope providers also reported a service disruption affecting phone and internet service, according to the North Slope Borough.

“Our providers have informed us of an area-wide fiber issue,” the borough’s Network & Support Services Division shared with residents.

In Kotzebue, a break caused 911 to be down for AT&T phones, according to a message from the City of Kotzebue, shared by the Maniilaq Association.

About 200 OTZ Telecommunications customers experienced internet issues Tuesday morning, CEO Kelly Williams said.

“Our residential internet is down but we were able to route all of our services across backup satellite, so all of our calling services are up and texting,” he said. Williams added that calling into Kotzebue was still a problem at that point.

This is a developing story. Check back for details.

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.