Under the sea, there’s a massive web of fiber that connects communities around the globe to the world wide web via high speed internet. In Alaska, that fiber zig-zags on the ocean floor around Southeast. And further north in the Gulf of Alaska, a separate line comes down from Homer and dead ends at Kodiak Island.
At least, it used to; late last month, communications company GCI started laying 800 miles of fiber from Unalaska up the Aleutian Chain with the goal of connecting six additional communities – including Larsen Bay on Kodiak Island – to high speed internet by 2024.
“It’s a huge project for us and for the state of Alaska,” said GCI’s Rural Affairs Director Jen Nelson.
The undertaking is called the AU Aleutians Fiber Project, and Nelson says Kodiak is an important piece of the puzzle.
While one ship, the IT Intrepid makes its way at 2 miles per hour laying fiber up the Alaskan Peninsula, another vessel – the IT Integrity – was off Kodiak’s Mill Bay Beach late last week, hooking up another 80 miles of fiber that will eventually stretch from the city to the village of Larsen Bay. The city of Kodiak hooked up to broadband in 2007, though Larsen Bay, on the other side of the island has remained unconnected.
“It’s extending from the infrastructure that is currently in Kodiak, so that is home base for this project,” said Nelson.
The massive project involves both laying new fiber and clearing out old debris on the seafloor. Nelson says GCI has pulled up long abandoned fishing equipment and a telegraph line from 1908 as part of the cleanup.
Residents in Larsen Bay will have to wait until 2024 for their new internet services to start. But they might not be the last Kodiak community to benefit from the project – Nelson says the villages of Port Lions and Ouzinkie have both applied for grants to hook into the new fiber network, although there’s currently no timeline on if and when they’ll be added to the project.
Unalaska and Akutan will have high speed internet by the end of this year, and Sand Point and King Cove will have service next year. Chignik Bay will have high speed internet in 2024.