GCI techs complete initial test of Unalaska fiber from subsea to premises cabling

Nov. 10, 2022
GCI was awarded a $25 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s ReConnect program in support of the project.

The GCI Aleutian Fiber Project team reports that it hit a major milestone recently when its technicians lit up four of 12 specialty fiber-optic strands that will soon provide 2 gig internet speeds to Unalaska. The operator's AU-Aleutians Fiber Project is scheduled to deliver 2,000 Mbps speeds and unlimited data at affordable prices to the residents of Unalaska by the end of 2022.

The project team finished deploying more than 800 miles of subsea fiber in late September and have completed the vast majority of Unalaska’s new fiber-to-the-premises local access network. As GCI tests the new infrastructure and ensures its performance and reliability, crews will continue laying the final feet of fiber connecting homes and business directly to the new network.

GCI contends the internet speed boost will be transformational in this previously satellite-served internet community, and that consumers on the island are poised for access to fast, affordable fiber broadband plans with service starting in December.

The project is expected to cost $58 million. GCI was awarded a $25 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s ReConnect program in support of the project. The company will use its own capital to pay for project costs not covered by the ReConnect grant.

GCI Project Manager Mike Bertsch commented:

“To see years of planning and work come to fruition is a huge moment for our project team. We’ve navigated so many challenges, from COVID-19 and supply chain issues to bad weather and rough seas. To make it happen on schedule is a massive accomplishment. I’m very proud of our team and am looking forward to bringing affordable, reliable connectivity to more communities throughout the region.”

Once work is complete in Unalaska, crews will continue up the Aleutian Chain and Alaska Peninsula toward Kodiak, stopping in Akutan, Sand Point, King Cove, Chignik Bay and Larsen Bay to install new local access networks. The new service is expected to turn up in each community by the end of 2024.

GCI noted separately that that work will also continue elsewhere as a new project ramps up to extend fiber-optic connectivity to six more communities in the region. The Native Village of Port Lions, in partnership with GCI, was recently awarded a $29.3 million grant from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) to bring urban level connectivity to Chignik Lagoon, Chignik Lake, Cold Bay, False Pass, Ouzinkie and Port Lions in the coming years.

GCI Rural Affairs Director Jenifer Nelson concluded:

“We are about to light up the network and close the digital divide in Unalaska! We’ve been waiting for years to see these first gigs of fiber-fed internet flow through Unalaska and it’s thrilling to know that we’ve taken another major step forward. Urban speeds and unlimited data will soon be a reality for thousands more Alaskans.”

More information about the project can be found at https://news.gci.com/topic/au-aleutians-fiber-project.

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