Closing the Digital Divide

GCI kicks off annual TERRA refueling effort, ensuring connectivity for rural Alaska

Specialized helicopters will ferry more than 100,000 gallons of fuel to 22 remote mountaintop towers

ANCHORAGE, Alaska – Specialized helicopters are making their annual trek to 22 Alaska mountaintops as crews refuel some of the most-remote telecommunications towers in North America. Far from commercial power grids and reachable only by helicopter, these towers must be able to stay running and self-sufficient for months at a time. The mountaintop towers are key pieces of GCI’s 3,300-mile TERRA (Terrestrial for Every Rural Region in Alaska) network, which provide access to connectivity services to 45,000 Alaskans in 84 rural communities.

Assisted by local contractors with specialized helicopters, GCI crews will make more than 200 round trips this summer to deliver approximately 106,000 gallons of diesel fuel to the remote sites. The refueling effort is critical in order to power the network that keeps Western and Northwest Alaska clinics, schools, businesses and community residents connected.

“Working closely with local partners like Bering Air is vital to keeping GCI’s TERRA network running smoothly,” said Senior Manager of GCI Rural Network Operations & Maintenance Earl Merchant. “Local pilots with years of experience flying experience in the region and a long history of working with GCI ensures both the safety of our crews and of the pristine wilderness in which we work.”

As GCI builds and maintains its network and infrastructure, including the refueling effort at these remote towers, the company takes special precautions to ensure the safety of Alaska’s ecosystem. Flights are planned for certain times of year to avoid interfering with things like caribou migrations and subsistence hunting. During the TERRA refuel, helicopters fly at least 1,500 feet above the ground, weather permitting, to minimize disturbances to wildlife. And if there are caribou or other animals visible near the site, crews will adjust flight routes to avoid contact.

“Serving a state as big as Alaska with so many rural and remote communities is a challenge, but our dedicated rural-based technicians are more than up for the task,” said Senior Director of GCI Facilities & Rural Network Operations JD Schultz. “We have technicians and site agents in nearly every community we serve. We’re your neighbors. Our family and friends live here, too. That’s why we work so hard to make sure our techs are well-prepared to keep our network running and ready to serve all our customers.”

Each mountaintop repeater site has one or two 4,500-gallon tanks. Arctic diesel fuel is hauled in between 410 and 440 gallons at a time by helicopter. Refueling each site takes as many as 16 different trips up the mountain.

GCI purchases the fuel from Alaska companies and works with local businesses throughout the process. GCI expects the annual refueling project to be complete by mid-October.

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.