The Connected Nation Blog: Policy & Need: Bringing Broadband to Alaska

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Policy & Need: Bringing Broadband to Alaska

By Jeremy Thacker, Communications Specialist, Connect Alaska

Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Julius Genachowski is in Alaska today kicking off a three-day visit. The chairman plans to spend the rest of the week getting a first-hand look at the state’s critical need for expanded broadband service and the progress being made on some of the solutions to the problem.

The Chairman’s visit is planned to include a tour of the TERRA-Southwest project that is currently under construction and will eventually extend terrestrial broadband service for the first time to Bristol Bay and the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta. The Chairman also plans to tour several remote villages across the state and take part in a meeting on Friday with Senator Mark Begich and the Alaska Broadband Task Force.

According to Connect Alaska’s recent Business Technology Assessment study, nearly 6,000 businesses in the state remain unconnected to broadband technology and miss out on an average of $100,000 in added revenue. A similar residential survey is now underway that is expected to clearly quantify what the majority of Alaskans already know: High-speed Internet is desperately needed, but in short supply across the Last Frontier. That leaves most Alaskans cut off from the life-enriching resources of online education, telemedicine, and e-government, not to mention online shopping, entertainment, and the basic communication of e-mail and social media.

Connect Alaska is a statewide public-private partnership working on broadband expansion under a federal grant administered by the state Department of Commerce, Community, and Economic Development (DCCED). The department recently established the statewide broadband task force chaired by Bill Popp of the Alaska Partnership for Economic Development. The task force is charged with creating a plan for Alaska’s future broadband deployment as well as accelerating the availability of affordable broadband technology throughout the state.