Air Force veteran returns to the Aleutians to manage major fiber project
ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Once assigned as the program manager for the Cobra Dane radar, a long-range detection defense system near the end of the Aleutian Chain on Shemya Island, GCI Project Manager Mike Bertsch is back in the Aleutians to help lead the GCI AU-Aleutians Fiber Project. GCI, Alaska’s largest telecommunications provider, is closing the digital divide in the Aleutians with a more than 800-mile subsea fiber project, and Bertsch is calling on his 20-year IT and telecommunications career in the Air Force to help lead the charge.
While the $58 million Aleutians Fiber Project is Bertsch’s first subsea fiber project, he has worked on terrestrial fiber projects in Asia, Europe, the Middle East and North America. Based in Anchorage, Bertsch will travel to Unalaska and other sites to oversee progress. He is undeterred by the potential challenges that lay ahead including inclement weather and shipping challenges that come with any Alaska project. He is excited by the new opportunities high-speed internet will bring to the people of Unalaska, King Cove, Sand Point, Akutan, Chignik Bay and Larsen Bay.
“Logistics are a big challenge with any project of this size,” said Bertsch. “For example, we have to rely on barges to get almost all of our materials to the region — and we’re talking about a large quantity of material. When complete, crews will have installed more than 529,000 feet of conduit in Unalaska alone. I’m excited to be a part of such a meaningful project. For those of us who are old enough to remember life before the internet, it will almost be that drastic for customers in the scope of the project. It’s going from slightly better than dial-up speeds to some of the fastest internet speeds in the nation.”
The Aleutians Fiber Project has entered the groundwork phase, with trenching beginning Oct. 12 in Dutch Harbor. The project team is making headway in Unalaska with plans to work through the winter in order to activate gigabit service in Unalaska by the end of 2022.
“Mike has ensured that our vendors, our crews and our team remain on track to meet the aggressive deadlines we set for ourselves on this project,” said GCI Vice President of Network Program Management Rebecca Markley. “It’s not only his decades of experience that make Mike such an integral team member, but his familiarity with the region as well. He truly understands the impact and importance of bringing fiber to these communities and we’re grateful to have him on the project team.”
Groundwork will continue for the next several months as trenching and conduit placement take place. The more than 800-mile fiber cable that will deliver gigabit speeds to the Aleutians is currently in development in Germany. When finished in April, the cable will be shipped to Vancouver and loaded onto ships before arriving in Alaska for installation. More details can be found at gci.com/aleutianfiberproject.
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.