Rural communities in Alaska have faced issues with poor broadband access. And with more businesses and organizations moving to online services, having access to the internet has become a crucial part of modern society.
Quintillion has built a fiber optic cable system along the Northwest coast and North Slope to help make high-speed internet services a reality for Alaskans in these areas. Although this is a great first step toward getting more people connected, there are still major challenges ahead.
Access to Government Funding
The federal government put out a funding opportunity that includes the Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program. This would enable communities to build the necessary telecommunication infrastructure for telemedicine, teletherapy, eCommerce, and more. However, with the first round of funding, there were many tribes that did not apply. One reason for this is that that application process took place primarily online. Since many communities did not have reliable broadband access, they were unable to access these grant opportunities.
Affording Internet Services
There are many areas in Alaska that are less developed and sparsely populated. This has created a large logistical problem with providing reliable internet service to these rural communities as it’s difficult to build out the infrastructure to serve people living in remote areas. And this time and costs involved in building these systems make the price of internet service more expensive for consumers. Many Alaskans in these areas have difficulty affording costly internet plans.
Access to Land
Although funding is coming into both the tribal and state governments, there is a struggle to coordinate how this funding is received and used. The U.S. Government owns 2/3 of Alaska, 1/4 is owned by Alaska, and only 1/10 is privately owned. Building out infrastructure can become complicated and requires a lot of planning and time to accomplish.
The digital landscape has changed drastically over a few years., While the younger generation in Alaska is having an easier time adapting to these changes, digital literacy is often poor in rural communities. It will take significant time, money, and planning to implement digital literacy training.
Upkeeping the Infrastructure
A big challenge beyond building the necessary infrastructure is maintenance. There are currently places in Alaska that fiber doesn’t reach and is difficult to build. These rural locations would also require the resources to maintain the infrastructure, which is difficult and costly.Read More About Broadband Access to Rural Alaska