USDA Awards $33m Grant for Klukwan-Skagway Fiber Project
September 28, 2022
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 utilizes existing right-of-way and previously disturbed areas, minimizing its environmental footprint and impacts.
Richard (Chalyee Éesh) Peterson, stated: “I am excited about this project and the impact that it will have on our remote communities in Southeast Alaska. 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.”
AP&T’s CEO Mike Garrett reflected: “The Klukwan-Skagway Fiber 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. The outpouring of support we received from indigenous organizations was an invaluable component of AP&T’s application. Special thanks to US Senators Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan for the incredible work they have done developing and supporting programs like ReConnect. We look forward to demonstrating our gratitude by making this project an amazing success for rural stakeholders, who helped to make this historic investment possible.”
Chilkat Indian Village, Skagway Traditional Council, Sealaska Corporation, and the Central Council of the Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska provided resolutions formally endorsing the Klukwan-Skagway Fiber project, emphasizing powerful synergies between modern telecommunications technology, indigenous culture, and tribal priorities. Additionally, environmental groups the Sustainable Southeast Partnership and Sitka Conservation Society submitted letters of support, citing the project’s support for the Southeast Alaska Sustainability Strategy, and the importance of broadband in diversifying southeast Alaska’s economy beyond its historical dependency on legacy industries like timber and mining.
For years, rural southeast Alaska has struggled to achieve economic sustainability, with villages like Klukwan experiencing particular hardship. USDA’s and AP&T’s new investment in fiber optic assets will help provide excellent opportunities for economic diversification and resiliency, giving stakeholders a new path forward to a successful future.
U.S. Senators Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan (both R-AK) announced last week the communities on the North Slope and in Southeast Alaska will receive a total of $63 million for high-speed internet network buildout / deployment projects. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) ReConnect Program grants, awarded to the Alaska Telephone Company and Arctic Slope Telephone, will help improve broadband access, including its affordability, for rural communities.
“Having reliable internet has become a basic service that many in urban areas take for granted. In far too many remote communities in Alaska, I’ve seen and heard firsthand accounts of the unreliability and high cost of internet, with some households paying upwards of $300 a month alone for an unstable service. Connectivity means so much—for telehealth, education, our economy and so much more. That’s why I led the infrastructure bill and why I’ve made it a priority to expand broadband infrastructure and accessibility for unserved and underserved areas,” Senator Murkowski said. “I’m pleased to see these grants for Alaska and what it will mean to so many of these rural communities for years to come.”
“It’s great to see the USDA continuing to award significant resources to assist with delivering high-speed internet access to rural Alaska—an essential component of 21st century infrastructure,” Senator Sullivan said. “Last month, I hosted a broadband summit in Anchorage with critical stakeholders from federal agencies, including from USDA, state and local governments, Alaska Native communities, industry, and other key partners as Alaska prepares to receive significant funds from the bipartisan infrastructure law. As these federal funds from various agencies come to Alaska, it is critical that all Alaskan stakeholders are coordinated in their response. If we coordinate well and work together, we have the potential to connect every community across our state.”Arctic Slope Telephone will be receiving a grant for $30.9 million to deploy a fiber-to-the-premises network to connect 476 people, 15 businesses and a public school to high-speed internet in North Slope Borough. Arctic Slope Telephone Association Cooperative Inc. will make high-speed internet affordable by participating in the FCC's Affordable Connectivity and Lifeline programs and will serve communities of North Slope Borough and portions of the Anaktuvuk and the Point Lay Alaska Native Village Tribal Areas.
Alaska Telephone Company's $33 million is to deploy a fiber-to-the-premises network to connect 211 people and five businesses to high-speed internet in the Haines Borough, the Hoonah Angoon Census Area and the Skagway Municipality. Alaska Telephone Company will make high-speed internet affordable by implementing the FCC's Lifeline Program, which will serve Skagway and Chilkat Alaska Native Village areas.
Edited By: Mary Kauffman, SitNews