American Ninja Warrior Nick Hanson Shares His Story of Rural Broadband
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, Hanson knows how important a reliable internet connection is for small communities like his. It’s a lifeline, delivering access an education, receive quality healthcare, and remain plugged in to the rest of the world.
With Hanson’s notoriety as a competitor on American Ninja Warrior, a TV show where athletes race to complete extremely difficult obstacle courses, Hanson has a remarkable platform to highlight the importance of the internet in small communities like Unalakleet. Together with GCI, he has worked to promote TERRA, their next-generation network dedicated to delivering broadband to some of the most rural regions in Alaska.
While in Washington, DC at an event sharing the story of his community and the TERRA network, we spoke with Hanson about connecting small communities like his.
NCTA: Tell us a little bit about Unalakleet.
Hanson: It’s a small village of about 680 people. We’re only one square mile. If I answer the phone and someone’s talking on the other side, I can tell who they are just by their hello.
NCTA: What does an internet connection mean in a community that small?
Hanson: It means connectivity. It means social media. For me, it means being able to stay up-to-date on the things that I do in my life like American Ninja Warrior. For the kids, [our school] has about 142 students K through 12 and [the internet] is so important to them because those that may be pushing beyond their classmates can take college courses online. GCI has delivered the connectivity that has allowed them to make that happen.
NCTA: Has this kind of connectivity had an effect on healthcare as well?
Hanson: Oh, for sure. We used to have to wait for x-rays for three days. Now it’s an instant thing. We send them off to the doctor and they get back to us and let us know if we need to get on a plane right away for surgery or if we can stay back and not worry. It’s huge.
NCTA: How does this kind of connectivity change a community that, for so long, was so isolated?
Hanson: I think it’ll help progress our community. Alaskan native people in general are a progressive people. We’re always wanting to move forward and do the next best thing. When motorboats came along, we stopped paddling. That’s the kind of people we are. If there’s an easier way of doing something then we’ll take advantage of it.
NCTA: Do you worry that will change who you are?
Hanson: Absolutely not. We’re still going to remain the Alaskan native people that we are. But now we have an opportunity to share it. Now we have an opportunity to spread that knowledge and spread the true history about our people. [The internet has] given us an opportunity to show people that we’re out here.
You can learn more about GCI’s TERRA network HERE.