GCI Aleutians Fiber Project enters next phase, launches marine survey
ANCHORAGE, Alaska — GCI has launched the marine survey for the AU-Aleutians Fiber Project, which will deliver high-speed broadband connectivity to some of the most remote communities in the nation. The survey, conducted by an Alaska-based company and crew, marks a significant milestone in the multi-year, multi-million dollar project. GCI is on track to meet its ambitious goal of delivering fiber service to Unalaska in late 2022.
GCI will conduct the survey in partnership with Benthic GeoScience Inc., a Matanuska Valley based geophysical and geotechnical survey company. Alaskans living in the Aleutians will recognize the fishing vessel, Norseman II, which has been repurposed for this project. The boat, part of the Support Vessels of Alaska fleet, launched from Homer, Alaska and will follow the planned route for the underwater fiber.
Utilizing specialized survey equipment, the team will chart the subsea floor and terrain along the fiber’s proposed route, stretching 860 miles from Kodiak, down the south side of the Alaska Peninsula and the Aleutians, and finally to Unalaska. The vessel will also make stops in Larsen Bay, Chignik Bay, Sand Point, King Cove and Akutan. The Norseman II launched on May 12 and is expected to return to port in mid-June. A second geotechnical survey will launch in August to gather samples of the seafloor.
“We’re really excited to launch the marine surveys,” said GCI Senior Staff Engineer Bruce Rein. “We’ve been planning for this project, including figuring out the fiber route, since 2017. Now we will get detailed data of what’s going on down there. We’ve strategically designed a route for the fiber that prioritizes safety and conservation, for example routing around known high-effort fishing grounds. This next boots-on-the-ground phase of our planning will give us a better understanding of the route, including what’s below the surface of the seafloor, to allow cable burial into the seafloor sediments.”
With extensive experience in marine engineering, construction and scientific research, Alaska-based Benthic GeoScience Inc. provides professional geophysical and hydrographic surveying services.
“This is a highly-specialized oceanographic research project and we’re proud to be using Benthic, an Alaska company,” said GCI Senior Manager of Corporate Communications and Community Engagement Jenifer Nelson, who is originally from King Cove. “The vessel will be relatively close to beach landing points in 30-40 feet of water near several communities, so if you see the Norseman II, be sure to wave hello!”
The project is expected to cost $58 million. GCI was awarded a $25 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s ReConnect program in support of the project. The company will invest $33 million of its own capital to pay for project costs not covered by the ReConnect grant.
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 http://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.