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GCI’s Network holds strong during 50-year storm

Network investment and dedicated staff keep comms running in face of violent storm

ANCHORAGE, Alaska – GCI, Alaska’s largest telecommunications company, today announced it had completed a comprehensive review of its infrastructure in all communities impacted by the severe storm that lashed coastal communities from the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta to Alaska’s North Slope earlier this month. The findings indicate, despite significant flooding that temporarily took two communities completely offline, GCI’s network held strong, and, with the exception of brief internet outages, service remained largely intact during the 50-year storm.

“We planned for the storm and did our best to make sure crews and facilities were prepared,” said GCI Vice President Bob Ortolano, who leads GCI’s Service Management Center, which keeps a close eye on the performance of the company’s statewide network and ensures any issues are addressed as efficiently as possible. “We monitored the entire western network 24/7 for the duration of the event. Dozens of people were involved in the process so we could quickly troubleshoot any problems. Once the storm passed, we immediately began our physical damage assessment to help us identify and prioritize resources to get into the field to resolve things as quickly as possible.”

The work in the field also included an in-person visit to nearly every site and community in Western Alaska that was impacted by the storm. GCI technicians visited dozens of communities, checking for wind damage, flooding damage and checked on electrical systems that may have been impacted by power outages caused by the storm.

“We did on-the-ground assessments of more than 50 communities,” said Vice President of GCI Network Operations Chris Burns. “We can monitor the network remotely, but there's nothing like getting boots on the ground to see what's really happening. And in many of these communities we already have technicians and site agents on staff whose job it is to maintain the network help with repairs in these situations.”

One such technician was Paul Moses, a GCI technician in Hooper Bay with more than 22 years of experience. He grew up in the community and is well known throughout the region. In the aftermath of the storm social media comments quickly piled up about his selfless efforts to keep his friends, neighbors and customers connected during the storm.

As the storm was approaching, Moses made the sure the battery was charged and the generator was ready to go. After the village’s power was knocked out by flooding and high winds, he went back to check on the local GCI facility where he discovered the battery had been damaged. Moses called around town to find another battery so he could start up the generator, eventually tracking one down after several attempts.

“I called a buddy who is a power plant operator and also works at the local clinic, and he found another friend who had a boat battery I could use,” said Moses. “I was able to pick up the battery and got the generator started. It was running well and I had to go back every few hours to gas it up and keep everything running in case there was an emergency at the clinic or someone needed help.”

Moses said power was restored to the GCI facility a couple days after the storm subsided and repair crews were able to reach the remote community of nearly 900 residents by plane.

“I'm not surprised to learn that our technicians went above and beyond, even in dangerous conditions,” said Burns. “We know how critical communications are during emergencies. Our technicians live in many of the communities that we serve. So, it's important to them that the network perform and be reliable. And I'm so impressed with the way the network operated during the outage.”

GCI has been serving Alaskans for more than 40 year and has invested more than $4 billion in its network and facilities. In addition to investing in equipment and infrastructure, GCI has a rural crew of 155 individuals who are experts with extensive training and decades of experience at maintaining networks in remote rugged environments.

“I am so proud with the way the network maintained operations even during the worst of the storm,” said Vice President of GCI Technology Solutions and Chief Engineer Chris Mace. “Every year, my team makes a plan to invest in the network, build out the network, and update and improve the network. We wouldn't be able to do any of this without the support from our rural crews. And I'm pleased that the investment and the training and the commitment of our employees really paid off for Western Alaska when it counted.”

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.