Broadband for Southwest Alaska

Thirty Thousand people in Southwestern Alaska can go on-line with high-speed internet access within the next year. 

Vice President Joe Biden this morning (Thursday) announced a $25-million federal stimulus grant that will provide wireless connections to53 communities in the area.

The grant went to the Sea-Lion corporation – the village corporation for Hooper Bay.

Sea Lion Management Company C-E-O Desiree Pfeffer  says the 53 villages that will get the service are, basically, those represented by the Association of Village Council Presidents in the Hooper Bay and Bethel area.   The service will be provided by satellite and wireless – not cables or fiber optics.  Pfeffer says that helps get the local infrastructure into the local villages so they can start service by the end of next year.

Each of these are a standalone facility, proven weatherized technology, there’s no overhead wires for the village so visually it’s very clean. There are key village locations within our mapping area, and then there are these smaller substations – no towers. So it is minimal construction.

Sea Lion’s partner in the project is Rivada Networks – an international company that Sea Lion began working with about a year ago on other, unrelated telecommunications projects.  Pfeffer says Rivada’s technical expertise, coupled with Sea Lion’s local experience in telecommunications, is a good fit.

Doctor Alex Hills, of Alex Hills Associates,  a consulting business based in Palmer,  says the choice of the Sea Lion project demonstrates the possibilities of broadband in other remote parts of the United States.

You know the Alaska Bush is one of the most underprivileged parts of the entire United States with respect to broadband internet service. So we’re hoping this program will do the same thing for several regions in the state.

Pfeffer says Sea Lion –along with Rivada — is already planning to be a part of those future activities.

Our next plans are to continue our partnership,  definitely delivering an ongoing operation for the rural telecommunications.  But we’re also looking at taking this possibly a statewide application or lower-48,  and of course continuing our work with the federal government.

The Sea Lion grant is one of eighteen national grants announced this morning, spending a hundred eighty million dollars of the $7.3-Billion  approved by congress for broadband expansion.  Some of that money will be leveraged as loans and Hills says that could help put between $10 and $11-Billion dollars into the national system.  And he says the U-S Department of Commerce has said it will accept another three or four hundred other projects within the next two and a half months.

Hills says the Sea Lion grant  is only one of twenty eight projects submitted from Alaska.

The majority of them relate to providing broadband service – or high-speed internet service – in the Alaska Bush.  That’s where the need in Alaska is greatest and that’s where most of the proposals are.

The heart of the project is the use of what’s called Four-G technology.  It is the next generation in wireless technology that is faster than the Three-G wireless system used in urban parts of the state.  It is currently being promoted in the lower forty-eight as suitable for mobile, stationary, data and voice connections.   Pfeffer says Four-G is able to handle a broader array of information and  says this puts Southwest Alaska on the cutting edge of communications.


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