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GCI continues connecting Unalaskans to high speed fiber internet

The telecommunications company has spent over two years working on an underwater fiber optic cable along the Aleutian Chain, and were weeks away from launching service in Unalaska when the cable was damaged in Unalaska Bay.
Image courtesy of GCI
The telecommunications company has spent more than two years working on an underwater fiber optic cable running roughly 800 miles from Kodiak to Unalaska.

Unalaska is officially connected to high speed fiber internet, but not everyone on the island has access to the new service.

GCI connected its first customers in December, and now, Rural Affairs Director Jenifer Nelson said around 200 homes in the community of about 4,500 year-round residents are turned on and either actively using the fiber broadband or ready to start service.

“That's ramping up every day,” Nelson said. “Every day there's going to be another group of homes and addresses that are going to become available. And right now, we are proactively reaching out to let you know that your home is ready, that you could come into the store and pick up your equipment.” 

GCI’s AU-Aleutians Fiber project — which is more than two years in the making — is an 800-mile undersea cable running from Kodiak to Unalaska promising high-speed broadband connection across the Aleutian Chain.

GCI crews are still directly connecting some Unalaska homes to the fiber, but for the most part, they’re just doing some final checks and balances, according to Nelson.

“They're really going through each connection and doing that last bit of quality control work to make sure it is working as it should, and then notifying customers when it is ready,” she said.  

With the fiber connection, Unalaskans have access to 2 gigabit speeds, which is about 2,000 times faster than what locals were getting previously, through mostly satellite connections.

Nelson said the company is reaching out to Unalaskans when their connections are ready to be turned on. Once a home is activated, she said folks can just head down to the GCI store, grab their gear and start streaming.

“We give you a call and say, ‘Your address is ready for service,’” Nelson said. “You stop in the store, get your equipment, and then they will give you a quick tutorial on how to set it up.”   

Usage prices are identical to those offered in Anchorage. Nelson said they range from about $85 to $185 depending on speed and how much data is included.

There are still about 100 homes that haven’t given the company permission to connect the fiber directly to the residence, she said.

Once Unalaska has been brought online, GCI will head back down the chain, connecting Akutan, Sand Point, King Cove, Chignik Bay and Larsen Bay. Those communities are expected to come online within the next two years.

Hailing from Southwest Washington, Maggie moved to Unalaska in 2019. She's dabbled in independent print journalism in Oregon and completed her Master of Arts in English Studies at Western Washington University — where she also taught Rhetoric and Composition courses.
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