Alaska Legislature

Rural internet bill approved by Alaska Senate; Gov. Dunleavy plans to sign it

JUNEAU — Gov. Mike Dunleavy said he intends to sign a bill that overwhelmingly passed the Senate on Monday to increase internet download speeds for rural schools.

House Bill 193 was fast-tracked through the Legislature so eligible schools could apply for funding this year before a March 27 deadline. Schools would be able to get grants to increase their download speeds to 100 megabits per second, a four-fold increase over what is currently available in state law.

”Many schools throughout Alaska still lack the capacity to execute standard tests required by state statutes, and without disruption,” said Bethel Democratic Sen. Lyman Hoffman in support of the bill.

The Senate on Monday passed HB 193 on an 18-1 vote. Wasilla Republican Sen. Mike Shower was the only no vote. The House passed the same bill after a marathon floor session early Thursday morning on a 36-4 vote.

Dunleavy issued a statement on social media that he intended to sign HB 193 into law to meet the March 27 deadline.

“While this bill is not perfect and there is additional need for more work on the affordability of broadband in Alaska, this is a step in the right direction. The increased internet speed will help schools’ educational process, especially in rural Alaska,” Dunleavy said.

Supporters say faster internet for rural Alaska students is an equity issue. It would allow for the same access to education as students receive in urban Alaska, they said.


The cost of the bill is disputed. The state Education Department estimated that it would cost almost $40 million per year. But industry experts say the department’s estimate is flawed. The true cost to the state is likely closer to $15 million annually, according to members of the Alaska Telecom Association. Federal grants typically match state dollars 8 to 1.

Last year, 151 Alaska schools received $6.6 million in state funding for up to 25 mbps download speeds. The Federal Communications Commission this month said that modern broadband networks should provide at least 100 mbps.

Shower had an amendment rejected on a 16-3 vote. It was intended to allow satellite internet services to be considered as an alternative if they cost less than accessing a fiber network. Industry representatives say schools can already apply for internet access from low-Earth orbit satellites, and a handful of schools have contracts with those providers.

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Sean Maguire

Sean Maguire is a politics and general assignment reporter for the Anchorage Daily News based in Juneau. He previously reported from Juneau for Alaska's News Source. Contact him at