Affordable, reliable, high-speed internet is coming to Western Alaska! Bethel Native Corporation (BNC), in partnership with GCI, Alaska’s largest telecommunications company, in October announced the launch of the Airraq Network (prounounced EYE-huk). The project will bring fiber-optic connectivity with 2,000Mbps internet speeds and affordable, unlimited data plans to 10 communities in Alaska’s Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta. The Airraq Network is funded by more than $73 million in broadband grants recently awarded by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program (TBCP) and the USDA’s Rural Utilities Service ReConnect program.
“The residents of the 10 grant communities are now looking forward to faster speeds, more data and having much more affordable plans in the coming years,” said BNC President & CEO Ana Hoffman. “The people of the Y-K Delta are resourceful, respectful and resilient. We have a strong sense of community, and we depend upon collaboration with our friends and neighbors to be successful. We know the value of presence, and that is why I have so much confidence in this partnership between BNC and GCI and our collective commitment to deliver this service together.”
“Ana is fond of saying ‘a first-class people deserve a first-class internet service.’ We couldn’t agree more,” said GCI President & COO Greg Chapados. “GCI pledges to the people of the Y-K Delta, our partner BNC, and NTIA and RUS that we will build and operate a first-rate network that will not just narrow, but eliminate the rural-urban digital divide for the 10,000-plus residents of Bethel and the other served communities.”
The Bethel Native Corporation has been awarded a $42 million grant from the NTIA to build a fiber network to Bethel, Platinum, Eek, Napaskiak, and Oscarville. As BNC's subgrantee partner, GCI will construct and operate the network, which includes a 405-mile fiber-optic backbone that will start in Dillingham, follow a submarine route to the mouth of the Kuskokwim River, and then transition to an overland route to Bethel.
GCI has been awarded a $31 million USDA RUS ReConnect grant to construct long-haul fiber and local fiber in the Y-K Delta communities of Atmautluak, Kasigluk, Nunapitchuk, Quinhagak, and Tuntutuliak.