Rollout plan in the region aided by $73 million broadband grants awarded by the NTIA Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program and the USDA's Rural Utilities Service ReConnect program. #pressrelease

October 12, 2022

2 Min Read

ANCHORAGE, Alaska – Affordable, reliable, high-speed internet is coming to Western Alaska! Bethel Native Corporation (BNC), in partnership with GCI, Alaska's largest telecommunications company, today announced the launch of a partnership to bring fiber-optic connectivity to Alaska's Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta. The project will bring 2 gigabit internet speeds and affordable plans to more than 10,000 Alaskans.

At an event held in Anchorage at the Alaska Native Heritage Center on Indigenous Peoples' Day, the partners announced 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 partners announced the new project name, the Airraq Network (pronounced EYE-huck). Airraq, a traditional Yup'ik game similar to cat's cradle, translates to “string that tells the story.”

ABOUT THE GRANTS

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.

  • The 405-mile network will start in Dillingham, follow a submarine route to the mouth of the Kuskokwim River, and then transition to an overland route to Bethel.

  • As BNC's subgrantee partner, GCI will construct and operate the fiber network.

  • GCI will upgrade its existing cable plant in Bethel and deploy fiber-to-the-premises local access networks in the four other communities.

  • Consumers in these communities will have access to 2 gig consumer broadband service plans that include unlimited data and affordable prices. Customers who qualify for the Affordable Connectivity Program will be eligible for free internet service.

  • The service is scheduled to launch in Bethel at the end of 2024.

  • The Bethel fiber project will connect in Dillingham to another NTIA-funded fiber project to be constructed by Nushagak Telephone, which, in turn, connects to an USDA RUS-funded fiber network that connects to Anchorage. By leveraging other federal investment, BNC and GCI are using every NTIA Bethel grant dollar in the most efficient way possible.

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.

  • GCI will construct and operate the fiber and will deploy fiber-to-the-premises local access networks in the five communities.

  • Consumers in these communities will receive 2 gig consumer broadband service plans that include access to unlimited data and affordable prices. Customers who qualify for the Affordable Connectivity Program will be eligible for free internet service.

  • This project will connect to the Bethel fiber, leveraging federal dollars in an efficient way.

In addition to Indigenous and community stakeholders, the push for federal support of Alaska's broadband projects, including the Airraq Network, also received broad support from state and federal leaders.

Read the full announcement here.

GCI

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