GCI AU-Aleutians Fiber Project gets green light to begin groundwork

U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Utilities Service issues environmental clearance for local construction of fiber project.

The GCI AU-Aleutians Fiber Project has reached another important milestone this week, receiving clearance from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Utilities Service to begin groundwork to prepare homes and businesses for the urban-level internet speeds that will be delivered by the company’s subsea fiber project scheduled to come online in Unalaska in 2022.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Utilities Service issued its decision based on an environmental analysis conducted by an independent contractor. The analysis concluded that the proposed project would have no adverse effects to threatened or endangered species, critical habitat or historic and cultural properties. RUS further concluded the project would have no significant impacts to wetlands, essential fish habitat, water quality, floodplains, land use, aesthetics, transportation or human health and safety.

“With the confirmation we received this week, we now have the green light to start groundwork to deliver fiber connectivity to the Aleutians,” said GCI Manager of Project Permitting & Compliance Sharee Tserlentakis. “Permitting in Alaska is always rigorous because we care very deeply about protecting our state and its resources. It’s important to us to be sure that the project will have no detrimental effects. We’re very pleased to have environmental clearance.”

The onshore work will upgrade local networks in preparation for the subsea fiber landing scheduled to take place in Unalaska in late 2022.

“This is an exciting milestone. This is when the project transforms from something on paper to a real, shovel-in-ground thing,” said GCI Vice President of Network Program Management Rebecca Markley. “We still have work to do before we can turn up service, but we’re enthusiastic about our next steps. Most importantly, we’re on track to meet our aggressive timeline to close the digital divide in Unalaska in 2022.”

When complete, the $53 million project will deliver urban-level speed, service and reliability for the first time to the Aleutians communities of Unalaska, King Cove, Sand Point, Akutan, Chignik Bay, and Larsen Bay. The project team is working closely with these communities to prepare for future construction.

More details can be found at gci.com/aleutianfiberproject.