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Starlink pairs with a local internet provider for first “community gateway”


Unalaska-based internet provider OptimERA is offering faster internet speeds to local customers. The company recently worked with Starlink to create a “community gateway,” which is similar to the individual satellite receivers Starlink users have at home — only scaled-up.

The Unalaska community gateway is Starlink’s first. Starlink is a subsidiary of SpaceX, owned by billionaire Elon Musk.

Overall distribution of internet services in town has not changed. OptimERA owner Emmett Fitch said his company worked with Starlink to use existing on-island infrastructure for the connection. Starlink also set up four new antennas.

“The community gateway is on our site and we worked with Starlink to get it installed,” said Fitch. “The OptimERA crew in Unalaska did the installation, and Starlink tech came out and tuned it.”

The gateway offers a 10 gigabit per-second connection. Around 80 percent of OptimERA customers are already hooked up to the new speeds.

Fitch said, “When you're dealing with gigabits per second, that's a tremendous amount of capacity. To put that into perspective, that would be enough for every resident in the community to be streaming an HD video, bi-directionally, at the same time.”

Internet options in Unalaska have evolved rapidly in recent years. Only a year ago, OptimERA was the only major provider on the island. But that changed with an influx of new options, including fiber optic. Fitch said he expects the Starlink community gateway to bolster competition among local providers.

“As we saw with the Quintillion fiber break, that caused a lot of heartache and hardship for people in the regions affected by that fiber outage,” he said.

Redundancy means that during surprise outages, Unalaskans can still access the internet. In June, a fiber optic cable torn by a ship’s anchor impacted service in Northwest Alaska for weeks.

Born and raised in Raleigh, North Carolina, Andy Lusk is a writer, travel enthusiast and seafood aficionado who won the jackpot by landing in Unalaska/Dutch Harbor. When he's not hiking or working on his latest story, you can find him curled up with his cats and a good book. Andy is a Report for America corps member and an alumnus of New York University.
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