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A Uniquely Alaskan Solution to Bring Broadband to an Isolated Gulf Community

Posted by Alaska Rural Development State Director Jerry Ward in Broadband Rural
Jan 13, 2020
A broadband tower in Alaska
The extremely rural town of Yakutat will soon enjoy a cutting-edge broadband service thanks to these towers spanning the vast Alaskan wilderness. Photo credit: Cordova Telecom

Imagine building a broadband network where there are no roads to move supplies, or electrical grids to power cellular towers. Yakutat is an isolated community of about 650 tucked into a sheltered bay off the Gulf of Alaska, disconnected from the road system, and hundreds of miles from Alaska population centers. Like many remote Alaskan villages, most residents in Yakutat adopt a subsistence form of living, depending heavily off the land and sea to survive. For Yakutat, which has a substantial Alaska Native population and struggles with a fifteen percent poverty rate, modern conveniences like fast internet are unavailable.

Cordova Telecom’s solution is to install five towers on mountaintops and refuel them annually via helicopter - truly an Alaskan solution to a uniquely Alaskan problem. In early December we announced we’re partnering with Cordova Telecom Cooperative through USDA’s ReConnect program and providing them $18.88 million to expand their broadband network over 200 miles to their neighbors in Yakutat.

On the day the award was announced, Nathan Moulton, Executive Director of Yakutat Tlingit Tribe said, “The Yakutat Tlingit Tribe is excited to work with Cordova Telecom to bring high-speed broadband to Yakutat. The USDA grant investment in Yakutat will allow for greater services in health care, schools, and social services and will positively impact lives and opportunities for everyone in our community. This is an exciting development and we look forward to seeing you in Yakutat.”

Cordova Telecom’s new network is expected to become operational in Yakutat by fall 2021, initially delivering connectivity at 2.6 gigabytes per second. By comparison, Cordova, which is roughly three times as populous as Yakutat, consumes slightly over 1 gigabyte per second during peak hours.

For rural communities to flourish in a place as challenging as Alaska, it’s important to count on your neighbors and work together. At USDA we’re proud of our partners bringing e-connectivity to rural Alaska, because we know when rural America thrives, all America thrives.

Category/Topic: Broadband Rural