GCI delivers: Company and community celebrate major milestone as crews turn up 2 gig service in one of the nation’s westernmost communities
ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Undaunted by a pandemic, global supply chain issues, chronic Southwest Alaska weather delays, ferocious seas and remote distances, Alaska telecommunications provider GCI met its ambitious deadline and launched 2 gig (2,000 Mbps!) internet service in Unalaska late last year. Unalaska is the first of 12 communities slated to receive urban-level internet speeds through GCI’s AU-Aleutians Fiber Project.
GCI hosted a celebration today to mark the milestone and were joined by community leaders, partner organizations, and local, state and federal lawmakers to mark the arrival of fast, affordable fiber-optic connectivity to the remote Aleutian Islands community.
“Part of the motivation behind founding GCI was delivering better telecommunications across the state. What strikes me today is the caliber of the GCI employees working on this project and others,” said Ron Duncan, GCI CEO. “This is a group of talented leaders and problem-solvers who are up to the challenge of connecting a state as vast and as rugged as Alaska. Though we still have a long way to go, I can tell you from first-hand experience, we’ve made great progress. We look forward to the important work ahead to connect our fellow Alaskans.”
ABOUT THE PROJECT
GCI’s AU-Aleutians Fiber Project is a two-phase project to bring 2,000 Mbps internet speeds and affordable, unlimited data plans to a dozen Aleutian, Alaska Peninsula, and Kodiak Island communities, closing the digital divide and bringing digital equity to the region.
Phase 1 of the project, funded in part by a $25 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s ReConnect program, includes an 800-mile-long fiber optic backbone. Now that the subsea fiber backbone is in place, crews are working to finish connecting Unalaska homes and businesses. Once work in Unalaska is complete, crews will move up the Aleutian Chain to connect Akutan, Sand Point, King Cove, Chignik Bay and Larsen Bay.
The work won’t stop here as a new project ramps up to use the subsea fiber to extend connectivity to six more communities in the region. The Native Village of Port Lions, in partnership with GCI, was awarded a $29.3 million grant in September 2022 from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration for Phase II of the project to bring urban level connectivity to Chignik Lagoon, Chignik Lake, Cold Bay, False Pass, Ouzinkie and Port Lions in the coming years.
“Building out fiber to Unalaska was an extremely ambitious idea and figuring out how to best connect such a remote island community was a challenge,” said Greg Chapados, GCI President and COO. “One thing was abundantly clear: the residents of Unalaska needed and deserved better. Now, fiber optic-connectivity has come to Unalaska, where residents are getting the same speed, data and pricing that we offer to our Anchorage customers.”
In addition to substantial backing from communities and businesses throughout the region, the push for federal support of Alaska’s broadband projects, including the AU-Aleutians Fiber Project, also received broad support from local, state and federal leaders.
“Congratulations to GCI and all its employees on this major milestone of connecting Alaskans to the world through broadband,” said Gov. Mike Dunleavy. “Bringing high speed service to Unalaska is no small feat, but you overcame the challenges like Alaskans always do. This project bridges the digital divide for thousands of Alaskans. It will allow access to telemedicine, improve education and public safety, and open up jobs. This project will bring us a little closer as we build an Alaska for the next 50 years and beyond.”
“This is a really good story of Alaskans of all walks of life coming together,” said Sen. Dan Sullivan. “A number of years ago, I had a nice visit to the area and the message I heard was loud and clear: Unalaska needed higher speed internet connectivity. Everybody came together to work on not only a need but an opportunity for significant broadband connectivity throughout the state.”
“The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s ReConnect Program is committed to ensuring the rich tapestry of people living in rural places have every opportunity to succeed and that they can find those opportunities right in rural America,” said Natalie Kovach, Telecom General Field Representative for the USDA. “This was an astronomical undertaking, but together with GCI, we are bringing transformational change. We are so excited to hear the stories as access to high-speed internet increases quality of life.”
For more information about the AU-Aleutians Fiber Project, visit: https://www.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 $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.