The project, which involved the construction of microwave relay towers in Kodiak and atop Mount Herman on Spruce Island, began in August after a false start in 2008, when four technicians had to be rescued from Mount Sharatin.
Despite the second-snowiest November on record, the microwave route around Sharatin is almost complete.
“We’ve got some panels to put up … and then we’re ready,” said Dave Burns, who is managing the project for the Kodiak-Kenai Cable Company. “We do have the Mill Bay to Ouzinkie link operating. We’re scheduled to complete the Port Lions link … I’d say late January is probably the target.”
The microwave system is the latest attempt to bring reliable Internet and phone service to Kodiak rural communities now served by satellite links. Satellite transmissions are expensive, affected by weather and limited by the time lag that happens when information is beamed to a satellite.
In 2006, KKCC completed an undersea fiber optic cable to the city of Kodiak, allowing deactivation of the city’s satellite stations. Now KKCC hopes to do the same in rural towns.
KKCC will not sell services directly.
“We’re a carriers carrier,” explained Burns. “We run the back-end transmission, then ACS, GCI and AT&T have an option to buy service from us.”
Burns said talks are under way with some of those carriers.
When the Port Lions link is working, KKCC’s next goal is to connect Old Harbor, home of the Old Harbor Native Corporation, which owns KKCC with the Ouzinkie Native Corporation.
That project could begin as early as this summer.
“It looks like we’re going to do the final planning and budgeting for that, and we’ll make a decision in the early spring, because we have long lead-time items,” Burns said.
The project would install a series of microwave towers west from Kodiak, connecting a signal to a receiver in Old Harbor. The goal is to start construction in June, in order to avoid the weather problems that pushed back this year’s project.
“We got all the concrete work done before the cold weather set in,” Burns said, “but there were a lot of storms and we had very narrow weather windows to get work done on Mount Herman and Course Point.”
While the storms delayed construction, they offered Burns a chance to test the microwave link in some of the toughest conditions Kodiak has to offer.
“We didn’t see any major degradation of signal … We saw what we expected, which is a testament to the design of the tower and the radio design of the path,” he said. “We’re looking forward to finishing this … We’re plugging along.”
Contact Mirror editor James Brooks at email@example.com.