Closing the Digital Divide

Amid Alaska's mountaintops and midnight sun, GCI crews haul hundreds of loads of fuel to mountaintop TERRA towers

Crews deliver more than 113,000 gallons of fuel to 22 mountaintop sites

ANCHORAGE, Alaska – After a non-stop effort under the midnight sun, the final load of fuel for the season has been delivered to GCI's mountaintop TERRA towers. As part of an annual refueling effort, GCI crews used specialized helicopters to deliver nearly 113,000 gallons of fuel to 22 towers on remote Alaska mountaintops. TERRA is a 3,300-mile hybrid fiber-microwave network serving many of Alaska's rural communities.

Each year, GCI crews, with help from local contractors, make approximately 275 round trips to haul enough fuel for these remote sites to remain online and self-sufficient for months at a time.

"To complete this project each year is a massive undertaking, and one you're likely to only find in Alaska," said GCI Senior Manager of Rural Network Operations & Maintenance Earl Merchant. "But despite the mountain of logistics, and the literal mountains themselves, our crews worked throughout the summer and fall to make sure each of the 45,000 Alaskans and 84 communities served by TERRA remain connected."

GCI technicians from Unalakleet, Kotzebue, Togiak, Dillingham, Nome, Fairbanks, and Anchorage supported the effort. The company also works closely with local aviation contractors Bering Air and Yukon Helicopters.

"Making the most of our local resources, especially technicians and pilots who are familiar with the local areas and culture is incredibly important," said Merchant. "It ensures that our teams can safely, responsibly, and efficiently refuel these 22 mountaintop sites every year."

As GCI builds and maintains its network and infrastructure, including the refueling effort at these remote towers, the company takes special precautions to ensure the safety of Alaska's ecosystem. Flights are planned for certain times of year to avoid interfering with things like caribou migrations and subsistence hunting. During the TERRA refuel, helicopters fly at least 1,500 feet above the ground, weather permitting, to minimize disturbances to wildlife. And if there are caribou or other animals visible near the site, crews will adjust flight routes to avoid contact.

Each mountaintop repeater site has one or two 4,500-gallon tanks. Arctic diesel fuel is hauled in between 410 and 440 gallons at a time by helicopter. Refueling each site takes as many as 16 different trips up the mountain. GCI purchases the fuel from Alaska companies and works with local businesses throughout the process. The annual refueling effort for the 2021 season was completed October 15.

About GCI

Headquartered in Alaska, GCI provides data, mobile, video, voice and managed services to consumer, business, government, and carrier customers throughout Alaska, serving more than 200 communities. The company has invested more than $3 billion in its Alaska network and facilities over the past 40 years and recently launched true standards-based 5G NR service in Anchorage, now the nation's northernmost 5G service area. Learn more about GCI at GCI is a wholly owned subsidiary of Liberty Broadband Corporation (Nasdaq: LBRDA, LBRDK, LBRDP). Learn more about Liberty Broadband at