Nick Hanson is a lot of things; he’s a coach, a volunteer, a Native Alaskan, and a Ninja Warrior. He’s also an internet advocate. Hailing from Unalakleet, an extremely small town in Western Alaska…
In a state where dog sledding is a popular sport and where roads in between neighbors are often hard to come by, high-speed internet makes all the difference. Like their urban counterparts, Alaskans demand more bandwidth as they rely on the internet more and more each day, and satellite service and low latency just couldn't do the job any longer. That's where the TERRA network [Terrestrial for Every Rural Region in Alaska], which is provided by GCI, the state's largest provider of broadband, comes in. TERRA serves 45,000 Alaskans in 84 communities across the most remote areas of the country. Next week on November 7, GCI will bring a taste of TERRA to Washington, D.C., in a visual showcase where people will be able to see and hear about how this enormous feat was even possible to achieve in the most difficult terrain in the United States.
The logistics to build the 3,300-mile TERRA, which started in 2011, involved construction crews, helicopters, engineers, heavy equipment operators, and the list goes on. Mountaintop sites were used for tower construction, and all equipment--which sometimes weighed up to 17,000 pounds--had to be flown in via heavy-lift helicopters. Timing was also everything, as crews could only work during certain parts of the year depending on land restrictions or weather conditions, and for specific parts of the day due to limited daylight hours.
It's no question that TERRA has transformed almost every area of life for native Alaskans, ranging from healthcare to business to education to entertainment. Schools with as few as 50 kids can take advantage of video conferencing for more specialized learning, and telehealth has reduced costs for many natives who would have had to be transported via helicopter to a hospital for any type of illness or ailment. Small businesses and artisans now also have the chance to reach more customers online, opening up a whole new world for entrepreneurs.
Stay tuned for more details and news about this unique broadband project when GCI brings Alaska to the NCTA office next week.