Federal money will pay for an extension of broadband internet from Kodiak’s fiber network down the Aleutian chain. 

The expansion will start in Kodiak and include Larsen Bay, Chignik, Sand Point, Akutan, King Cove and Unalaska, as reported by KTOO. 

The $46.5 million grant is from ReConnect, a federal program to bring broadband to rural America. Of the total, $25 million will go to the Aleutians project, and the rest will go to a similar project in the Prince of Wales-Hyder Census Area. 

The grant will be joined by $17 million by the grant recipients. 

Unicom Inc., a subsidiary of GCI, will work on the Aleutians project, which will connect 7,441 people, 310 businesses, 10 educational facilities, seven post offices, four fire stations and a city hall to high-speed internet. 

“The coronavirus pandemic has highlighted the shortcomings of not being connected, a familiar problem to many Alaskans for far too long,” Sen. Lisa Murkowski said in a press release. 

“We must continue to help Alaskan communities have the telecommunications broadband infrastructure that is taken for granted elsewhere.”

Murkowski, Sen. Dan Sullivan, Rep. Don Young and Gov. Mike Dunleavy all wrote a letter in support of the grant going to the Aleutians project. 

“Despite the lack of basic infrastructure other states take for granted, the people who live and work in rural Alaska need broadband to succeed,” they wrote. 

“Our rural health clinics need broadband to power telemedicine services, our rural village schools need broadband to connect their students to critical education resources, and the businesses in our rural villages need broadband to compete in a global economy. It is critical that the second round of the ReConnect program do as much as possible to help Alaska close the digital divide.”

Previously, a 2019 ReConnect awarded a grant to Cordova Telephone Cooperative to provide connectivity to 270 households in Yakutat, a project expected to be completed by the fall of 2021.

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