Juneau, Alaska (KINY) – Alaska Telephone Company, a subsidiary of Alaska Power & Telephone Company, has been selected by the United States Department of Agriculture to receive a $33 million grant from USDA Rural Utility’s ReConnect grant program Service to extend fiber connectivity in rural Southeast Alaska.
Alaska Telephone Company said they will invest $11,005,879 in matching funds. The “Klukwan-Skagway Fiber” project will develop fiber networks capable of 100 Mbps symmetric service and above for the Alaska Native community of Klukwan, rural areas near Haines, and deprived areas of Skagway.
“The Klukwan-Skagway Fiber project will drive economic growth and significantly improve the quality of life in very remote, hard-to-serve locations, empowering rural Alaskans with remote working, distance learning, telemedicine and more” , says Mike AP&T’s CEO Mike. Garrett. “The outpouring of support we received from Indigenous organizations was an invaluable part of AP&T’s application. Special thanks to U.S. Senators Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan for the incredible work they’ve done developing and supporting programs like ReConnect. We look forward to showing our gratitude by making this project a tremendous success for rural stakeholders who helped make this historic investment possible.”
AP&T estimates first construction could begin in 2023, subject to the timing of permits and environmental approvals. Construction will be a multi-year process, with completion scheduled for 2028. The project will utilize existing priority areas and previously disturbed areas, minimizing environmental footprint and impacts.
In a press release, the company said the Central Council of the Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska was a major supporter of the request.
“I am excited about this project and the impact it will have on our remote communities in Southeast Alaska. Over the past three years, the pandemic has shown us just how remote our communities really are,” said Tribal President Richard Chalyee Éesh Peterson. “By closing that connectivity gap, we provide more opportunities for our youth, employment opportunities for citizens and unlimited growth potential for our tribes and village farms.”
AP&T said the Chilkat Indian Village, Skagway Traditional Council, Sealaska Corporation and the Central Council of the Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska have filed resolutions formally endorsing the Klukwan-Skagway Fiber project. They said environmental groups, the Sustainable Southeast Partnership and Sitka Conservation Society, have submitted letters of support, citing the project’s support for the Southeast Alaska Sustainability Strategy and the importance of broadband to diversifying Southeast Alaska’s economy beyond the historic dependence on old industries such as timber and mining.