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Unalaska City Council to choose one of three providers for city internet services

Laura Kraegel

The Unalaska City Council will weigh the city’s internet service provider options at its meeting Tuesday night, after unanimously deciding to postpone the discussion earlier this month.

The City of Unalaska is currently on a month-to-month contract with internet provider Fastwyre —previously known as TelAlaska. The two entered a five-year agreement in 2021, which is no longer valid now that the city has access to much faster and more economical internet plans through other internet services.

In early May, the city requested that internet providers place bids to supply services for the city starting July 1. Three providers were interested: GCI, OptimERA and Fastwyre.

Jake Whitaker, information systems supervisor with the city, and Interim Finance Director Clay Darnell evaluated the bids and recommended that the city purchase internet services from GCI.

Whitaker told council members fiber optic connection from GCI and Fastwyre are preferred because they aren’t weather dependent, while local provider OptimERA’s satellite connection is.

"When you're comparing [satellite internet] to fiber optics, you have snow, rain, weather, and it is a factor for connectivity,” Whitaker said. “That's what we took into consideration and that was generally what steered us toward GCI.”

City Manager Bil Homka proposed the city seek a five-year agreement with GCI, but some councilors wanted more information on speed and cost before making a vote.

While fiber optic may be less vulnerable to weather interference than satellite options, Vice Mayor Dennis Robinson said fiber could still be disrupted. He gave the example of a recent weather-related disruption in Northwest Alaska that took internet provider Quintillion offline and continues to leave communities without internet.

"If fiber goes out, we still need internet,” Robinson said. “We cannot be in the same situation as the folks that relied on Quintillion’s fiber. And right now, if you go with GCI, that's the same thing … you will be back to the stationary or the geostationary satellite internet [if a fiber optic line gets cut].”

The Unalaska City Council plans to discuss internet service providers Tuesday at 6 p.m. during its regularly scheduled meeting.

Sofia was born and raised in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. She’s reported around the U.S. for local public radio stations, NPR and National Native News. Sofia has a Master of Arts in Environmental Science and Natural Resource Journalism from the University of Montana, a graduate certificate in Documentary Studies from the Salt Institute and a Bachelor of Arts in Studio Arts from the University of Colorado Boulder. In between her studies, Sofia was a ski bum in Telluride, Colorado for a few years.
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