AIRRAQ tundra fiber lay 3.27.24 1
AIRRAQ Network

AIRRAQ Network crews install project’s first miles of fiber over frozen tundra

The joint Bethel Native Corporation-GCI AIRRAQ Network fiber project will connect 13 Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta communities

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — The first stretch of AIRRAQ Network fiber has been deployed! Crews recently worked between Eek and Napaskiak, installing approximately 45 miles of fiber over the frozen tundra between the two communities. Once complete, the joint Bethel Native Corporation-GCI AIRRAQ Network fiber project will deliver 2.5 gig residential internet speeds, plans and pricing to 13 Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta communities.  

This initial fiber deployment kicks off the AIRRAQ Network fiber project’s middle mile work, the majority of which is expected to be complete this year.

“To safely complete work during the late winter construction window, we flew two large reels of fiber stored in separate 20-foot-long containers from Anchorage to Bethel,” said GCI Project Manager Gustavo Ortega. “Once the containers landed in Bethel, our contractor partners from Utility Technologies Inc. placed the fiber reels on a large, enclosed sled and delivered it to the starting location in Napaskiak using a PistenBully tracked vehicle. The crews then deployed roughly 45 miles of fiber over the frozen tundra before reaching their stopping point at Apogak, just south of Eek.”

Crews will complete the remaining miles of the tundra route segment in the spring, crossing the Kuskokwim River and other smaller waterways enroute to Eek.

“We have a very busy summer ahead of us,” said GCI Principal Program Manager Rebecca Markley. “In addition to finishing the tundra segment between Napaskiak and Eek, we’ll also be deploying hundreds more miles of subsea and riverine fiber, and building and installing cable landing stations, fiber shelters and network equipment. As that work continues, we’ll also be completing design work that will lay the foundation for local network deployments in AIRRAQ communities later on.”

“It’s exciting to see AIRRAQ Network project crews beginning the installation of fiber in the region,” said Bethel Native Corporation President & CEO Ana Hoffman. “After many months of intense preparation for the deployment of this transformational technology, the anticipation within our communities is real. Watching the equipment launch onto the ice road, to lay the infrastructure that will connect our AIRRAQ villages, was truly special.  This is a significant milestone.  Through the AIRRAQ Network, BNC and GCI are working to close the digital divide in the Y-K Delta.”

The AIRRAQ Network is a more than 900-mile fiber-optic network that will deliver affordable 2.5 gig residential internet speeds and unlimited data plans to 13 Western Alaska communities, including: Bethel, Platinum, Eek, Napaskiak, Oscarville, Atmautluak, Kasigluk, Nunapitchuk, Quinhagak, Tuntutuliak, Tununak, Toksook Bay and Emmonak. The overall project is supported by more than $100 million in broadband grants awarded by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program (TBCP) and the USDA Rural Development’s ReConnect program, and by private investment by GCI.

For more information about the AIRRAQ Network, visit: https://www.gci.com/bethel-airraq-network.

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 $4 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.