Could Contentious Politics Doom Unalaska’s Bid For Fast Internet? Maybe, Says GCI

Nov 13, 2017

GCI is exploring the possibility of a $40 million fiber optic cable project that would improve Unalaska's slow satellite service.
Credit Laura Kraegel/KUCB

While the final decision is still months away, GCI has taken another small step toward bringing high-speed internet to Unalaska.

The telecommunications company applied for the project’s first permit this month.

If granted, the license from the Federal Communications Commission will allow GCI to extend its fiber optic network to the Aleutian chain.

“That one should be pretty straightforward," said GCI Vice President Dan Boyette. "The other one that’s a little more difficult is the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE). That’s the permit that allows you to do offshore work in Port Heiden, False Pass, Akutan, and Unalaska.”

GCI plans to file its USACE application Nov. 21. But even as the permitting process begins, Boyette said the company won’t make a go or no-go decision until the first quarter of 2018.

He said GCI wants to nail down five-year contracts with island businesses and build a good relationship with city officials before signing off on the $40 million project.

Asked if contentious local politics will affect GCI’s plans, Boyette said ... maybe.

“The long-term stability of the community really does have a bearing on the investment that we want to make here," he said. "So we would very much like to see things settle down.”

Meanwhile, GCI’s promise to upgrade Unalaska’s wireless service to 4G LTE has been delayed again. Boyette said construction snags have forced the company to push its deadline from year’s end to mid-February.