More on Broadband Grant to Southwest Alaska

High Speed internet is on its way to Southwestern Alaska. 

Vice President Joe Biden this morning (Thursday) announced a twenty five million dollar federal stimulus grant that will provide wireless internet to thirty thousand residents of a ninety thousand square mile area  in fifty three villages in the area.

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

Sea Lion Management company C-E-O Desiree Pfeffer says the service will be provided by satellite and wireless – not cables or fiber optics.  She says that helps get the local infrastructure into the local villages so service can be delivered in most of the villages 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 will partner with Rivada  Networks – an international company that Sea Lion began working with about a year ago on other, unrelated projects.

The Sea Lion grant is one of eighteen national grants announced this morning, spending a hundred eighty million dollars of the Seven Point Two Billion dollars approved by congress for broadband expansion.  Jonathon Adelsteen, with the U-S Department of Agriculture,  said the Alaska grant is one of the first to be awarded using stimulus money – but many more will come next year.

We are focusing at USDA on really reaching rural areas that are otherwise hard to reach that aren’t well-served by broadband in order to promote their economic development.  Having broadband is a critical element of rural communities reaching their highest potential for economic growth and for vitality.  We are therefore focusing in the first round on some of the most remote communities to be sure we put the funding out in the most remote areas first.

The grants announced today will soon be followed by another three or four hundred projects the federal agencies are expected to deal with within the next two and a half months.    Doctor Alex Hills,      President of Alex Hills Associates,  a consulting business based in Palmer,  says this is one of a total 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.

Hills says the hope for the Sea Lion – and other projects – is to see a dramatic improvement in computer access at all levels for rural Alaska in several parts of the state.

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