GCI leverages $25M federal grant to spread fiber broadband in Alaska's Aleutians

May 20, 2022
The broadband service provider said its AU-Aleutians Fiber Project will run approximately 800 miles from Kodiak along the south side of the Alaska Peninsula and the Aleutians to Unalaska.

GCI crews in Unalaska, Alaska, the major population center in the Aleutian Islands, are accelerating preparations for deployment in anticipation of subsea fiber coming to the community later this year.

GCI said its AU-Aleutians Fiber Project will run approximately 800 miles from Kodiak along the south side of the Alaska Peninsula and the Aleutians to Unalaska.

The provider noted the project will deliver urban-level speed, service and reliability for the first time to the communities of Unalaska and Akutan by the end of 2022, Sand Point and King Cove by the end of 2023, and Chignik Bay and Larsen Bay in late 2024.

“Our teams pushed hard through the winter to get us into a good position as we prepare to start laying more than 800 miles of subsea fiber this summer,” said AU-Aleutians fiber project manager, Mike Bertsch.

As communicated by a GCI press release, so far in the project, ground crews have dug more than 55,000 feet of trench and installed more than 120,000 feet of fiber conduit throughout Unalaska.

Bertsch added, “Recently, we also brought a crew down to Unalaska to bore holes under nearly 40 road crossings, so we didn’t need to cut through the asphalt and disrupt traffic. With our build in Unalaska more than 60% complete, we’re on track and well on our way to delivering fiber-optic connectivity to the community.”

During the buildout, GCI crews are installing fiber directly to homes, which will give local residents access to 2 gig residential internet speeds, which are some of the fastest available in the nation.

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 invest $33 million of its own capital to pay for project costs not covered by the ReConnect grant.

Last year, GCI publicly committed to providing 10 gig internet for Alaskan communities, and to deliver 2 Gig services within 2022. In 2020, in a wireless networking partnership with Ericsson, GCI turned up its first 5G NR cell sites in the city of Anchorage.

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