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Rural Alaskan Broadband Project Ramps Up

According to the FCC, roughly 67 percent of the state's rural residents are without a reliable internet connection.

(TNS) -- A telecom provider that serves Valdez and the Copper River Basin has started work to ramp up internet speeds as part of a larger 10-year plan to improve broadband service in rural Alaska.

Between May and October, Copper Valley Telecom installed fiber optic broadband in 575 homes in Valdez to provide faster internet service.

"It's as good as residential customers in Anchorage are getting," said Tabitha Gregory, chief customer relations officer at the cooperative. "That helps close what they call the digital divide between urban and rural customers."

The expansion is funded by the Alaska Plan, approved last year by the Federal Communications Commission. Under that plan, a group of telecoms here use federal subsidies toward a commitment to bring high-speed internet to more rural users, Alaska Dispatch News reported earlier this year.

The work Copper Valley Telecom did this year cost about $3 million in federal money, and the cooperative plans to spend about $50 million over the next nine years of the expansion.

"What we'll be doing now is reaching out into increasingly remote areas of our service area, into places like Glennallen and Copper Center," Gregory said. "It's possible to put these higher speeds into a lot of our state."

In Alaska, 67 percent of the population in rural areas lacks access to broadband, according to 2016 FCC report. That's about 168,000 people. Nationwide, 39 percent of people in rural areas don't have access.

©2017 the Alaska Dispatch News (Anchorage, Alaska) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.