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FCC Commissioner Will Visit Unalaska During State Broadband Tour

Aug 6, 2018

In Unalaska, Commissioner Brendan Carr will tour towers and other telecom facilities operated by GCI, Optimera Wi-Fi, and TelAlaska.
Credit Berett Wilber/KUCB

A major player at the Federal Communications Commission is due in Unalaska.  

Brendan Carr will arrive Monday night and spend about 24 hours on the island to learn about the broadband challenges facing rural Alaska.

The FCC regulates communications across the country — from radio and satellite to television and internet.

Brendan Carr joined the agency as a commissioner last summer, after the U.S. Senate unanimously confirmed his appointment by President Donald Trump.

Since then, he's helped the Republican-led FCC to repeal net neutrality protections and spearheaded a $100 million program to expand access to telemedicine.  

Carr's short trip to Unalaska, however, is expected to be educational rather than policy-driven.

"To get a feel for the place," said Vice President Dan Boyette of the telecom company GCI. "I don't think it's any more complicated than that."

Boyette said Carr will tour GCI's local facilities, along with the island's other providers, Optimera WiFi and TelAlaska.

"He's a relatively new commissioner, and there are a lot of Alaska-based issues in front of the FCC at this point," said Boyette. "I think he's just looking to learn."

Those issues include how to develop infrastructure in rural areas and how to manage competitive federal subsidies that help pay for those projects.

Overall, Mayor Frank Kelty said he wants to emphasize that Unalaska's slow satellite service affects everyone — from individuals and businesses to schools and the clinic. 

"I don't know if we're going to have time to do everything," said Kelty. "But he can be made fully aware of the needs that we have in this community on the lack of connectivity."

Carr will be escorted by the staff of U.S. Senator Dan Sullivan, who encouraged the commissioner to visit the island during his first trip to Alaska.

A Sullivan spokesperson said the senator heard about Unalaska's broadband struggles during his own trip in 2016 and thought it would be a "perfect community" for Carr to visit.

The commissioner will stop in in six other communities during his five-day swing through the state, including Anchorage, Dillingham, and Utqiagvik.

On Tuesday, the City of Unalaska is holding a public reception for community members to meet the commissioner and ask questions. The event starts at 11:45 a.m. at City Hall.