Annual refueling effort for GCI's mountaintop TERRA towers nears completion
ANCHORAGE, Alaska — With more than 89,200 gallons of diesel delivered over 223 helicopter trips, 18 of GCI's 22 mountaintop TERRA towers have been topped off with fuel to keep the sites powered 24/7 for another year. Far from power grids, these towers, reachable only by helicopter, rely on the annual refueling effort in order to stay running and self-sufficient for months at a time. The remaining sites are slated to be refueled by mid-October.
Assisted by local contractors with specialized helicopters, GCI crews will have delivered approximately 102,000 gallons of diesel to these remote sites once the project is complete. The TERRA, or Terrestrial for Every Rural Region in Alaska, keeps 45,000 Alaskans in 84 rural communities connected.
"These remote 22 mountaintop sites are key to keeping the residents, schools, health care facilities, and businesses more connected," said GCI Senior Manager of Rural Network Operations & Maintenance Earl Merchant. "Reaching and refueling these sites is a massive undertaking, but with the combination of using local GCI crews and contractors, we're able to safely and efficiently navigate any logistical hurdles that come our way."
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.
"GCI's annual TERRA refuel project isn't just important for the resilience of the network, but to the economic health of the region," said Merchant. "By employing local workers, contracting with local companies like Bering Air and Yukon Helicopters, and purchasing fuel locally, the project provides jobs and infuses money into local economies."
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. GCI expects the annual refueling project to be complete by mid-October.
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 www.gci.com. GCI is a wholly owned subsidiary of Liberty Broadband Corporation (Nasdaq: LBRDA, LBRDK, LBRDP). Learn more about Liberty Broadband at http://www.libertybroadband.com.