Grandma would be proud: For GCI's Jenifer Nelson, bringing broadband to the Aleutians is personal
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. In 2020, GCI launched the Aleutians Fiber Project to bring fiber connectivity to 12 of the most remote communities in the nation. For GCI’s Jenifer Nelson, this project, which will transform the way people work, learn and connect throughout the region, is personal.
Nelson, GCI’s rural affairs director, grew up in King Cove, a small fishing community at the end of the Alaska Peninsula with about 900 year-round residents and rich in Unangan culture, which will be served by the AU-Aleutians Fiber Project.
“Growing up in a small town, you’re related to almost everybody and everybody knows everything about you and what you’re doing,” Nelson said. “So, really, when you hear the phrase ‘it takes a village’ to raise a person, you really do feel like you were raised by the community.”
Nelson’s grandmother, Mattie Mack Samuelson, was one of 18 children and part of one of King Cove’s pillar families. She was also one of the first health aides in the state, which was a key role in remote communities far from the nearest hospital.
“She was really just a normal person who got some training and would help out the community for all their needs because it was so hard to connect with doctors in Anchorage,” Nelson said.
Every year on Nelson’s birthday, her grandmother would tell the story of how she found out Nelson was born.
“I was born in Anchorage, but back home there was only one landline telephone in the entire community,” Nelson said. “I think it was a day later, but they were just basically waiting around that single phone for the call to come in to tell them the good news.”
Nelson says it’s ironic that she’s now involved in GCI’s massive AU-Aleutians Fiber Project, which will bring broadband to her hometown of King Cove and 11 other communities and bring digital equity to the region.
“When broadband comes to the region, people are not only going to be able to access everything that it offers and have the world at their fingertips, but they’re also going to be able to bring themselves and their culture and their experiences and their economies to the rest of the world,” Nelson said. “It’s truly going to be transformative.”
The AU-Aleutians Fiber Project will deliver 2,000 Mbps residential internet speeds and affordable, unlimited data plans to King Cove, Unalaska, Sand Point, Akutan, Chignik Bay, Chignik Lake, Chignik Lagoon, Cold Bay, Larsen Bay, False Pass, Ouzinkie, and Port Lions. Nelson says there’s no doubt that her grandmother would be blown away about how the project will impact how people in those communities receive and access better medical services.
“Who knows, maybe she could’ve been a cool TikTok star or influencer with her pictures of her gorgeous pies and bread and all the other yummy treats she would make,” Nelson said. “When I think about the most important thing that my grandma taught me, it’s the value of sharing and giving back and just that sense of community – that we are one.”
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.