Pioneer Consulting to support Alaska’s FISH in SEAK subsea cable system

Dec. 19, 2023
The company will provide various services for CTC, extending fiber-based broadband services in four rural Alaska communities.

By Gina Rullo

Pioneer Consulting, an optical submarine consulting and project management company, had been selected to provide initial engineering and design services for the Fiber Internet Serving Homes in Southeast Alaska submarine cable system (FISH in SEAK). This early-stage submarine cable complements the FISH in Alaska project.

Contracted by Cordova Telecom Cooperative (CTC), Pioneer will additionally oversee the selection of a permitting company and marine route survey contractor for the FISH in Alaska cable after successfully completing the cable’s engineering and design phase. 

“It is exciting to see the FISH project become a reality,” said Jeremiah Beckett, CEO of Cordova Telecom Cooperative. “As we begin work on FISH in SEAK, we are encouraged by the redundancy and internet capacity that the overall submarine system will provide to our communities.”

The engineering of a 900 km underground cable for FISH in SEAK began in the fall of 2023. FISH in SEAK will further expand the system’s critical connectivity to some of the most remote areas of southeast Alaska, delivering greater broadband capacity to local communities. The FISH in SEAK and FISH in Alasa cables will connect at a landing station hub in Cordova, Alaska. 

“We are thrilled to continue this critical work with the Cordova Telecom Cooperative,” said Philip deGuzman, consulting director of client solutions at Pioneer. “It is an honor to support the various stages of this project to bring expanded connectivity and greater reliability to Cordova and the surrounding communities.” 

Focus on underserved communities

The FISH project is funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s ReConnect Program, an initiative to connect rural and underserved communities. Once fully implemented, FISH in AK will connect Cordova and Seward, with branching units to Johnstone Point and the Village of Chenga. In contrast, FISH in SEAK will connect Cordova and Juneau, with additional fiber connections to Yakutat, Pelican, Gustavus, and Hoonah.

In August, CTC announced it had been awarded $34,905,000 in grant funding from the USDA’s Rural Utility Service ReConnect Round 4 program to install a submarine fiber optic cable from Cordova to Juneau, deliver Fiber-To-The-Home in the unserved community of Pelican, and have additional fiber branches to Yakutat, Gustavus, and Hoonah. CTC’s match of $11,635,000 will result in a community investment of $46,540,000.

The project, codenamed “FISH in SEAK” (Fiber Internet Serving Homes in Southeast Alaska), will deliver broadband internet speeds of 100/20 Mbps with gigabit potential to all year-round residents and businesses in Pelican via fiber-to-the-home connections. This will complement three other USDA investments with CTC: the Chenega Highspeed Internet Project (CHIP), the New Internet Communications for Everyone in Yakutat project (NICEY), and most recently, the Fiber Internet Serving Homes in Alaska project (FISH in AK) in Cordova which was awarded in July 2022. These grants will provide fiber connectivity to four rural roadless Alaska Native communities and new transport opportunities for telecom carriers serving Southeast Alaska.

“CTC is honored to bring broadband to the City of Pelican and aid other carriers with reliable backbone infrastructure in Southeast Alaska. This will provide vital connectivity to unserved and underserved communities in rural Alaska for which the USDA ReConnect Program has been invaluable to making that a reality,” Beckett said.

Community partnerships

CTC will work with the community of Pelican and partners to deliver fiber broadband services over the next five calendar years. The Cooperative has already partnered with Pioneer Consulting to begin designing the path for the submarine cable and its multiple branch units. The consulting firm, which has engineered submarine cable projects globally, is designing the ReConnect Round 3 path from Cordova to Seward. Tentative installation for both fiberoptic cables is tentatively slated for 2026.

“This is a huge win for Pelican,” said Pelican's Mayor Patricia Phillips in August. “Fiber being brought to our community will provide residents with life-changing accessibility to remote services like healthcare, education, and sustainable economic development opportunities. We look forward to working with Cordova Telephone Cooperative over the coming years as construction progresses.”

FISH in SEAK will consist of two simultaneous phases and take a maximum of five years to complete. Planning and engineering are scheduled to begin this year.

Gina Rullo is a freelance writer. 

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