Construction on high speed internet infrastructure is expected to begin in the Kodiak Island communities of Larsen Bay and Port Lions this year, as GCI prepares to set up fiber internet around the island and Alaska Peninsula.
GCI’s AU-Aleutians Fiber Project has two phases. The first involves connecting four Aleutian communities along with Chignik Bay and Kodiak’s Larsen Bay to the telecommunication company’s pre-existing 800-mile-long fiber optic cable.
Jenifer Nelson is GCI’s Rural Affairs Director. She says Phase 1 work is currently being done in Akutan. The next phase will focus on connecting more Kodiak Island communities to fiber, including Port Lions, where site survey work is underway.
“So we’ll be bringing fiber from that main line into the communities,” Nelson explained. “So it will come ashore and there will be what we call a beach manhole. It’s flush with the ground and it’s just where the fiber comes out of the marine environment into the community.”
She says design plans for the land connections and obtaining permits to do the construction work in Port Lions is ongoing at this time, but are close to being finished. Once that is complete then Phase 2 construction can begin.
The Native Village of Port Lions was able to pay GCI for part of this project with a $29.3 million grant from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) back in 2022, which would deliver 2 gig service, with 2.5 gig residential speed internet to their community and five others in the region – Chignik Lagoon, Chignik Lake, Cold Bay, False Pass, Ouzinkie.
In a press release, Native Village of Port Lions’ Tribal Council President Nancy Nelson said, “The NTIA’s Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to close the digital divide and bring digital equity throughout the region and the state.”
GCI’s Nelson grew up in King Cove, one of the communities getting internet access through GCI’s Aleutians Fiber Project, and knows exactly how transformational high-speed internet will be for these island communities.
“My grandmother tells this story of the day I was born. At that time there was only one land line telephone in the whole community [King Cove],” she said. “And now to bring broadband internet speeds that are 2.5 gigs, faster than a lot of places in the Lower48, it’s pretty exciting.”
Nelson says the first phase of work to connect the communities of Chignik Bay and Larsen Bay to fiber internet will start this spring in April, 2024. After that is complete, Port Lions will be next.