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The Divide: MTA's Wanda Tankersley on Alaska's middle-mile problemThe Divide: MTA's Wanda Tankersley on Alaska's middle-mile problem

This week: Wanda Tankersley, COO at MTA, a telecom co-op in Alaska, talks about the state's unique middle-mile challenges, the company's AlCan ONE fiber project, and more.

Nicole Ferraro

September 2, 2021

19 Min Listen

On this episode of The Divide, we hear from Wanda Tankersley, chief operating officer at MTA (or Matanuska Telecom Association), a telecommunications co-op in Alaska.

According to Tankersley, much of MTA's coverage area (which totals about 10,000 square miles) is disconnected from the road system. That's typical of the state itself, and it highlights one of the challenges of providing high-speed Internet in such a rural and rugged environment.

"We have some communities ... that are off the road system. And getting that connection to them is just... there isn't a business case, I'm gonna be very clear about that.

"The way it works, the way Alaska is able to do it – and we're so excited about what's happening on the federal level – is through grants and federal funding," she said. "That's the only way those cases are going to work in Alaska."

We dive into the unique circumstances for broadband providers in Alaska and what the state needs from legislators to successfully close the digital divide. We also discuss MTA's work with school districts to keep students connected; as well as the company's AlCan ONE project, the first all-terrestrial fiber line connecting Alaska to the Lower 48.

[Ed. note: Tankersley refers to MTA's coverage area as the size of West Virginia; however, the correct size comparison is the state of Massachusetts.]

Related episodes:

— Nicole Ferraro, contributing editor and host of "The Divide" and "What's the Story?" Light Reading

A version of this story first appeared on Broadband World News.

About the Author(s)

Nicole Ferraro

Editor, Light Reading

Nicole covers the broadband industry and broadband policy. Some* call her the broadband broad (*no one). Nicole hosts The Divide – LR's podcast on the digital divide – and she tracks new broadband builds in The Buildout column.

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