• Toward Universal Broadband in Rural Alaska

      Hudson, Heather E.; Hanna, Virgene; Hill, Alexandra; Parker, Khristy; Sharp, Suzanne; Spiers, Kent; Wark, Kyle (Institute of Social and Economic Research, University of Alaska Anchorage, 2012-11)
      The TERRA-Southwest project is extending broadband service to 65 communities in the Bristol Bay, Bethel and Yukon-Kuskokwim regions. A stimulus project funded by a combination of grants and loans from the Rural Utilities Service (RUS), TERRA-Southwest has installed a middle-mile network using optical fiber and terrestrial microwave. Last-mile service will be through fixed wireless or interconnection with local telephone networks. The State of Alaska, through its designee Connect Alaska, also received federal stimulus funding from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) for tasks that include support for an Alaska Broadband Task Force “to both formalize a strategic broadband plan for the state of Alaska and coordinate broadband activities across relevant agencies and organizations.” Thus, a study of the impact of the TERRA project in southwest Alaska is both relevant and timely. This first phase provides baseline data on current access to and use of ICTs and Internet connectivity in rural Alaska, and some insights about perceived benefits and potential barriers to adoption of broadband. It is also intended to provide guidance to the State Broadband Task Force in determining how the extension of broadband throughout the state could contribute to education, social services, and economic activities that would enhance Alaska’s future. Results of the research could also be used proactively to develop strategies to encourage broadband adoption, and to identify applications and support needed by users with limited ICT skills.