Program to Bring Broadband to Villages

logo-w-sunburstKayla Desroches/KMXT

Kodiak villages may soon see a boost in their internet speed.

The Alutiiq Museum is involved in a federally funded National Digital Inclusion Alliance program called Digital Inclusion Corps. It’s intended to build broadband infrastructure in rural areas and increase residents’ understanding of computers. Kodiak is now one of five sites involved in the program, which springs from former President Barack Obama’s ConnectALL broadband initiative.

The Alutiiq Museum recently hired former Coast Guardsman Jeff Garcie to help guide its efforts as the museum’s development assistant. Garice says Obama’s initiative aims to spread the use of broadband through the United States.

“With so much being done online nowadays either through school, health care, and just being able to connect with people, it’s hugely important for everyone to have the same equal opportunity through being able to use broadband and not just broadband but digital literacy, so being able to function a computer.”

Garcie says the program will focus on the villages, and the museum is still working out how it’ll meet those communities’ needs.

“I’ve heard stories of people trying to use their cell phones and having to have their cell phones sit outside while they use the computer inside as a hot spot and then waiting an hour for a picture to download. Some people, they can see that they got an email, but it takes so long to download [that] it’s faster for them to drive to the library to use their internet.”

The first step to getting fast internet is making sure individuals have a computer to access it on. Garcie says the program can help out with that, too.

“Sometimes, what they can do is find computers that people have either donated or recycled and fix those up and bring them into the communities as either a low cost or no cost option for being able to have a computer, and then another part of it is being able to get the internet to the communities.”

He says he’s looking into using a technology called TV white space to bring broadband into the villages.

“Trying to see what possibilities there are to broadcast the fiber optic capability of the broadband here in Kodiak to the villages via this TV white space, and what it is is a UHF radio signal that gets broadcast through antennas over the mountains and, because the way UHF works, it can go over mountains fairly easily.”

Garcie stepped into the position of development assistant last month, and like the program, he’s just getting started. Currently part-time, he will become a full-time employee in May.

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