GCI celebrates Women’s History Month, recognizes women helping close Alaska’s digital divide
ANCHORAGE, Alaska — During national Women’s History Month, GCI is celebrating the women who are helping close the digital divide by building out fiber projects across the Last Frontier. On GCI’s AU-Aleutians Fiber Project, which will close the digital divide in a dozen remote Alaska communities, Mariah Luze and Valerie Haragan have taken on some of the project’s most-rugged roles.
Luze, a construction manager for GCI, and Haragan, a permitting and compliance specialist, spent weeks at a time at sea aboard the C/S IT Integrity in areas legendary for rough seas and nasty weather. In July 2022, Haragan was aboard the vessel during its pre-lay grapple run, which cleared man-made debris along the 800-mile-long fiber route from Unalaska to Larsen Bay.
“During the run, the Integrity crew found, pulled up and moved old cables, lost crab pots, and even an old telegraph line from 1908,” said Haragan. “While this process is crucial to ensuring the safety and longevity of our subsea fiber, it was also important we meticulously document what we found to take special care of Alaska’s wildlife and natural resources ensuring the safety of Alaska’s rugged, but delicate marine ecosystem.”
After the pre-lay grapple run wrapped up, Luze took Haragan’s spot aboard the ship to oversee the deployment of the crucial stretch of subsea fiber between Larsen Bay and Mill Bay, near the City of Kodiak. Though the fiber segment was only 85 miles long, it ran through some of the most extreme seas in the region.
“The work was done in the most shallow and narrow segments of the route in areas with high tides and swift currents,” said Luze. “The route took us through Whale Passage near Port Lions, between Kodiak and Afognak Island. It was absolutely magical watching the crew aboard this ship work as one cohesive unit, 24/7. Even when things got a little stressful, the crew always worked as one.”
Thanks to the hard work of Luze, Haragan, and the rest of the AU-Aleutians Fiber Project team, the subsea fiber has been deployed and residents of Unalaska now have access to lightning fast 2 gig internet speeds. With the network’s backbone in place, 11 more communities in the region are slated to receive urban-level internet service in the coming years.
“Seeing the difference this project is already making in the Aleutians makes all the weeks at sea, away from home, more than worth it,” said Luze. “Being selected to be a part of this team and trusted to oversee the deployment of a key segment of subsea fiber is one of my proudest accomplishments since joining GCI. Not only has it put all my knowledge about fiber optics, splicing, training, testing and troubleshooting to the test, it has also given me an opportunity for growth I likely wouldn’t get many other places.”
“I don’t think many people outside of Alaska, or outside GCI for that matter, truly comprehend the magnitude of this project and the logistical challenges it presents,” said Haragan. “I’ve been working on permitting for the project for years with local communities and even I didn’t fully understand how big of an undertaking it would be until I was aboard the IT Integrity traveling up the Aleutian Chain. It’s something very few people will ever experience, but I wish everyone could. I’m grateful that I’ve had that opportunity with GCI.”
For years, women have played pivotal roles in establishing GCI as a national connectivity pacesetter. From construction of the AU-Aleutians Fiber Project and the TERRA Network to the launch of the state’s first 5G wireless service and managing GCI’s satellite portfolio, women are leading the charge to close the digital divide in Alaska.
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.