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Western Alaska is the size of the entire Midwest. Now it has broadband. (Gov Parnell first video call) #TERRA-SW

Video h/t (Scroll down for latest news on the wires this morning)

Broadband Internet forges into rural Alaska

Alex DeMarban | Jan 12, 2012

Thousands of remote Alaskans will soon be able to enjoy high-speed Internet thanks to an $88 million project -- funded partly with a federal stimulus grant -- that laid hundreds of miles of fiber-optic cable across frozen tundra and an ice-locked river before using Chinook helicopters and mountaintop towers to finish the job.

The new broadband network -- set to come online in coming days -- will link one of the nation's most remote regions with big cities in Alaska and the rest of the world, an Alaska telecommunications company announced on Thursday.  

Southwest Alaska has long relied on satellites for telecommunications, a system that created delays as signals ricocheted tens of thousands of miles between space and earth. The long distances caused noticeable pauses in everything from Internet connections to videoconferences. Even phone calls were frustrating, with talkers waiting for echoes or stretches of silence to pass before continuing to speak. It was like communicating by trucker CB.

9,000 homes, 750 businesses affected
One of the network's most important benefits will be faster videoconferencing for long-distance education and training. Hospitals and clinics will be able transmit complex medical records digitally and instantly, instead of waiting to move that information overnight when bandwidth opened up.....

Terrestrial Broadband Connects Southwest Alaska to the World for the First Time

ANCHORAGE, Ala., Jan. 12, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- General Communication, Inc. ("GCI") (NASDAQ:GNCMA) announced today that on Thursday, January 12, Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell hosted the first live terrestrial videoconference between Juneau and Bethel's Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corporation (YKHC).

The videoconference utilized TERRA-Southwest, an $88 million terrestrial broadband "middle mile" project constructed by GCI's wholly owned subsidiary, United Utilities Inc., using federal broadband stimulus funding provided by the Department of Agriculture's Rural Utilities Service.

The Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corp. is working with GCI through an initial test phase expected to last two weeks. Broadband connectivity will be fully available for residential and commercial customers after testing.

Speaking to Gov. Parnell on the historic video call was the CEO and president of YKHC, Gene Peltola. "Getting Southwest Alaska off satellite and onto TERRA-SW is a major accomplishment for GCI and its subsidiaries. YKHC will be one of the largest beneficiaries of this new network. It will allow us to continue expanding the use of....

GCI to connect Southwest with broadband

Jan 12, 2012 - 02:06 PM AKST
Southwest Alaska is ready to get online a year after General Communications Inc. broke ground on a historic project to bring high-speed internet access to the region.

Construction of the Terra-Southwest network was completed in October and GCI is now migrating large customers such as hospitals, schools and Alaska Native corporations from satellite-based service to the new terrestrial broadband network.

Bethel will be the first to receive residential broadband access, perhaps as early as February, and by the end of 2012 some 9,000 households in 65 communities from Pedro Bay to Emmonak will be connected.

Residents in Southwest Alaska can’t wait.

“I get a couple emails a week saying, ‘when can I hook up?’” said Krag Johnsen, GCI director of rural broadband.

Johnsen noted Terra-SW is what’s known as a “middle mile” network, or an internet “superhighway” to Western Alaska. Reaching residential consumers is the “last mile” network and will require some additional gear and equipment to reach homes with wireless broadband service.

At 10 a.m. Jan. 12, the first video teleconference served as a virtual ribbon cutting between Gov. Sean Parnell and Yukon Kuskokwim Health Corp. President and CEO Gene Peltola utilizing the new....