Closing the Digital Divide

Annual refueling project underway for GCI’s TERRA network

GCI works with local Alaska companies to buy fuel and transport it to mountaintop towers

ANCHORAGE, Alaska – GCI crews, assisted by specialty helicopters, are midway through their annual refueling project to deliver roughly 90,000 gallons of Arctic diesel fuel to 22 mountaintop TERRA towers in Western and Northwest Alaska.

The specially equipped helicopters only have a narrow window of time to make approximately 220 trips to deliver enough fuel to power remote mountaintop microwave towers, reachable only by helicopter, for the next 15 months. The refueling effort is critical in order to power the network that keeps Western and Northwest Alaska clinics, schools and community residents connected.

“We work with Bering Air and Yukon Helicopters to fly in the fuel. These are local businesses and aircraft flown by local pilots who know the area and what it takes to work with the weather and territory to safely and efficiently deliver their payload,” said Senior Director of GCI Facilities & Rural Network Operations JD Schultz.

“And this year, due to travel restrictions and safety concerns caused by COVID-19, we’re also working closely with local leadership to ensure the safety both of GCI employees and contractors as well as the local residents.”

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.

The TERRA – or Terrestrial for Every Rural Region in Alaska – network is a massive $300 million GCI infrastructure project serving 45,000 Alaskans in 84 rural communities.

GCI purchases the fuel from Alaska companies and works with local businesses throughout the process. The annual refueling project, which GCI expects to be complete by September, costs approximately $1.5 million, with the majority going into local economies.

About GCI

GCI provides data, mobile, video, voice and managed services to consumer and business customers throughout Alaska. GCI has delivered services for nearly 40 years to some of the most remote communities and in some of the most challenging conditions in North America. Learn more about GCI at GCI is a wholly owned subsidiary of GCI Liberty, Inc. (Nasdaq: GLIBA, GLIBP). Learn more about GCI Liberty at