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GCI Outage Affects 911 Calling In Unalaska

Berett Wilber/KUCB

A GCI Outage last week left Unalaskans unable to call the Department of Public Safety.

DPS sent out a text alert on October 6 warning community members that they should try using landline phones if they were unable to connect with a cell phone.

GCI detected a potential issue on Oct. 5 and enlisted on the ground technicians to investigate. GCI vice president Dan Boyette says any outage is unacceptable.

“We work real hard to make sure those systems don't fail," Boyette said. "We put in redundant systems and we work as hard as we can to make sure we don’t have those kind of outages.”

GCI's Nick Manglallan says outages like last week’s aren’t that uncommon. It can happen anywhere and on any carrier.

"This type of outage can happen in Anchorage or in Seattle with any carrier," Manglallan said. "It's not just due to the fact that you are in the Aleutians, [in] Unalaska, or in Dutch Harbor. "

But the difference Boyette says is large cities have more cell towers and that can help make up for gaps during outages. In Unalaska’s that’s not the case.

"In a small town where you have a central cell site through which all the traffic goes and there is no other cell site to pick up that traffic, you don't have that luxury," he said.

Boyette says he hopes an outage like this won’t happen again for a long time. By the end of the day Oct. 6, service was up and running as usual.

Zoë Sobel reported for KUCB from 2016 until 2019. She returned to KUCB after a year living in Nepal and Malaysia as a Luce Scholar. She then returned to KUCB as a ProPublica reporter August of 2020 through August of 2021.