Federal Program Helps Alaskan Villages Get Broadband

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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — Alaska will receive at least $100 million under a new federal program to extend high-speed internet to underserved rural areas and promote workforce development work, officials said Tuesday.

U.S. Senator Dan Sullivan, a Republican from Alaska, coordinated a summit with state, federal and tribal officials in Anchorage, in an effort to ensure the parties were on the same page moving forward. Alaska Governor Mike Dunleavy signed a bill at the summit establishing a broadband office to help with coordination among all entities.

Sullivan said it was important to seize “this incredible opportunity that we have in front of us, which is to connect every part of Alaska, every village, every community to broadband and other Internet activity.”

The federal infrastructure package included $65 billion to help ensure that all Americans have affordable, reliable, high-speed Internet access through the Internet for All program. Sullivan said that through this program and others, Alaska could ultimately receive more than $2 billion.

Alan Davidson, the US Commerce Department’s assistance secretary and National Telecommunications and Information Administration administrator, saw and heard about the needs while attending a roundtable in Fairbanks on Monday and then visiting the village of Tanana.

“The need for reliable and affordable high-speed internet is great, and the challenge of reaching those unconnected here is immense,” Davidson told a news conference before flying to Bethel to study. needs.

While in Fairbanks, he announced a $50 million grant to Doyon Regional Corp. under the Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program. He said the funding will help connect hundreds of homes in 23 Alaska Native communities to state-of-the-art internet service.

Hundreds of tribes applied for grants last year, five times the amount of funding the agency could accept, but Davidson announced a $1 billion injection into that fund during his visit to Anchorage. He said they can now approve more applications they received last year without having to force tribes to reapply.

He also said they have reached an agreement with the US Bureau of Indian Affairs to streamline the permitting process for building high-speed internet networks on tribal lands.

Asked when Alaska Native villages could be connected to high-speed internet, Sullivan said he describes it as a five-year plan, though some areas will be connected before others.

“We have to plan it, coordinate it, and aim for this long five-year goal of trying to connect everyone in the state,” Sullivan said.

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