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US government awards $33m subsidy for Alaska fibre

Klukwan Alaska.jpg

The US government is giving the Alaska Telephone Company US$33 million to expand fibre connectivity in rural south-east Alaska.

The money, from the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) ReConnect grant programme, is the build fibre networks capable of 100Mbps symmetrical service and higher in the Klukwan and Skagway area.

The Alaska Telephone Company will add $11 million of its own, meaning that the federal government is paying 75% of the total cost. The company has not said where it will be buying the fibre equipment.

Mike Garrett, CEO of Alaska Power & Telephone (AP&T), which owns the phone company, said: “The Klukwan-Skagway fibre project will spur economic growth and significantly enhance quality of life in very remote, hard-to-serve locations, empowering rural Alaskans with options for remote work, distance learning, telemedicine, and more.”

Klukwan (pictured, vai Google Streetview) and Skagway are at the top of two inlets of Mud Bay, just a few kilometres from the border of Canada’s Yukon province.

AP&T estimates that initial construction may begin in 2023, depending on the timing of permitting and environmental approvals. Construction will be a multi-year process, with completion projected for 2028. The project uses existing right-of-way and previously disturbed areas, minimizing its environmental footprint and impacts.

Tribal president Richard (Chalyee Éesh) Peterson said: “In the last three years, the pandemic has shown us how remote our communities really are. By closing that connectivity gap, we are providing more opportunities for our youth, employment opportunities for citizens, and unlimited potential of growth for our tribes and village corporations.”

Garrett said: “The outpouring of support we received from indigenous organizations was an invaluable component of AP&T’s application.”