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Blog // Connect Alaska

Rural Alaska Community Successfully Rallies for Faster Internet

By CAK Staff

The community of Glacier View is both picturesque and secluded. Located about 100 miles from Alaska’s largest city, it’s one of a handful of small towns in the south-central region of the state where people can drive to see, what else, but a glacier. For Glacier View’s approximately 245 residents, its remote location provides a way to escape the city and experience all the great natural wonders Alaska has to offer, though it also presents some challenges. In a world where people have gotten used to being constantly connected via the Internet and wireless phones, Glacier View continues to lag in broadband availability and speed … but that’s all about to change, thanks to some creative community broadband planning.

A man with a plan

It all started about 11 years ago. Joseph Davis, a local resident and businessman in the technology field, was looking for a way to make it easier for he and his wife to do work online from Glacier View. Back then, Glacier View did not have terrestrial Internet. Realizing there was a real need, not just for him, but for the whole area, Joseph put out a petition in the community to urge Matanuska Telephone Association (MTA), the local telephone cooperative, to bring Internet to Glacier View. A year later, after a second petition and much support from the community, MTA connected Glacier View via DSL. Although DSL is slow by today’s standards, it was a great success for the time and the remote location.

A few years later, after Glacier View adopted and utilized the DSL connection, Joseph put together another petition to bring in faster speeds with broadband Internet. But despite enthusiasm from the residents, MTA said the cost to install the infrastructure needed to provide broadband would be neither economical nor affordable. So it seemed, at least at the time, that DSL was the best you could get in Glacier View.

Creative Solutions

Then, in the summer of 2013 just before the 4th of July holiday, MTA contacted Davis and asked him to put together another petition. MTA said there was a chance it could bring faster Internet speeds to Glacier View through a federal grant it was working to get but the co-op needed his help. So, being the enthusiastic community organizer he is, Joseph staked out a position in the food line at the local 4th of July picnic to get the signatures needed on the petition. He also went to area businesses to get letters of support. Within a matter of days, Joseph had everything MTA needed to complete the grant application. MTA submitted the application, and Glacier View waited for a response.

Success

After nearly a year of waiting and wondering, MTA just recently found out that it will receive nearly $3 million to bring broadband to Glacier View. The funds were awarded through the USDA Community Connect Grant program, which serves rural communities where broadband service is least likely to be available, but where it can make a tremendous difference in the quality of life for citizens. You can learn about the latest round of funding awards here.

According to MTA, fiber optic cables will be laid between approximately miles 64 to 115, bringing Internet speeds of up to 20 Mbps to the community of Glacier View. Residents will be able to connect to the new broadband and telephone service for the same price as their existing service by the end of summer 2015.

There are many communities throughout Alaska that are still not connected to broadband. But working with the local residents or the telephone company can make a difference. The USDA Community Connect grants are  not just for telecom companies; the Tanadgusix native corporation of St. Paul Island received a Community Connect Grant in 2012 to deploy fiber in its village as well.

If your community could use a broadband upgrade, the deadline to apply for the next round is usually mid-summer. Find more info on the Community Connect Grant here.



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