GCI completes construction of 3,300-mile broadband network in rural Alaska

GCI, Alaska’s largest technology company, has completed the heavy construction phase of its Terrestrial for Every Rural Region in Alaska network, a massive Alaska infrastructure project that, when complete, will connect 84 rural communities to modern technology with high-speed terrestrial broadband. Completing the “TERRA ring” will mark the end of the flagship project, creating a chain of interconnected communities that now have online access to the rest of the world.

After seven years of engineering and construction, GCI celebrated this milestone with Bethel residents Thursday at a community event that drew more than 1,000 people, including local and state leaders, U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski and representatives from Sen. Dan Sullivan’s office.

“Alaska is home to some of the most challenging weather and geography in North America, which makes connecting nearly 45,000 Alaskans to a wealth of online resources a tremendous accomplishment,” said Martin Cary, senior vice president of GCI Business. “GCI is bringing high-speed broadband to Alaskans living in some of the most remote communities on earth. We’re incredibly proud and thankful to the dedicated partners and hardworking crews that made it all possible.”

“We’re just not going to be able to have a physics teacher in Kwethluk,” said Sen. Murkowksi. “But to be able to bring that expertise out to the villages through distance delivery, this is going to be the great equalizer.”

Closing the TERRA ring will result in:

•Access to high-speed broadband for over 80 rural Alaska communities, through which 3G/4G cellular service is also possible;

•Critical bandwidth made available to numerous public, private and nonprofit entities such as school districts, regional health corporations and Alaska Native organizations;

•High-speed data streaming for use in video conferencing, a critical tool for health care and education that can result in long-term cost savings for Alaskans;

•Increased network capacity and improved reliability for TERRA communities through one of the largest fiber-microwave networks in the country.

The build-out of the TERRA network was no small feat. Since 2010, GCI and its partners in construction, STG Inc. and Ericsson Inc., have been tackling Alaska’s unpredictable weather and challenging geography to construct more than 100 TERRA microwave towers in Alaska’s wilderness. Construction relied on heavy-lifting helicopters to deliver tower equipment, tools and steel to remote areas. GCI crews withstood weeks of wilderness isolation to build TERRA towers and construct a next-generation network for communities that now have the world at their doorstep.