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New cell towers rising in Unalaska

December 1st 8:24 pm | Jim Paulin Print this article   Email this article  

From new cell towers now rising to the proposed high-speed Terra Aleutian connection to the rest of the world, GCI is making progress on improving cellphone and internet service in Unalaska, according to Vice President Dan Boyette.

One new cellphone tower has been erected and should be providing basic cellphone service by the end of November on Captains Bay Road. The 100-foot tower at Offshore Systems, Inc. replaces a smaller hillside unit at the commercial dock and warehouse complex, servicing factor trawlers, freezer longliners and other large fishing and cargo and research vessels.

Construction recently started on the other new tower on East Broadway in Unalaska Valley, Boyette said.

In February, the new 4GLTE system is projected to start across the entire community, allowing Facebook and other web access on phones not now available with 2G service.

The local hardware buildup includes the two new towers plus new antennas mounted on the landmark Haystack tower, which has served the community for years and provides the framework for the illuminated apparition of a Christmas tree.

In a much bigger, three-year plan, the Anchorage telecommunications company is seeking, and getting, commitments from local organizations. GCI is proposing a $40 million "Terra Aleutian" underwater fiberoptic cable extension to Unalaska, 760 miles from Levelock on the mainland in Bristol Bay.

It would bring significantly faster internet connections, compared to the pokey satellite-based system now in place.

"Backups and updates will take minutes, not days," GCI has said.

Levelock is presently the end of the line for a cable extending across Cook Inlet and up and over a mountain range to Lake Iliamna and the Kvichak River.

The cable would also go ashore to the fishing hubs of Port Heiden, False Pass and Akutan.

Boyette said he is now seeking five-year commitments from potential customers in the fishing and transportation industries, and one local government. Already, the Westward and Alyeska Seafood companies in Unalaska have pledged support, he said.

GCI has spent $2.5 million planning the project.

Still pending are commitments from Trident Seafoods, Peter Pan, Unisea, Matson Lines, American President Lines and the Unalaska city government, he said. If the project finds enough customers, onshore work would start next year and offshore cable-laying would follow for the next two years. The planned completion date is Sept. 30, 2020.

Jim Paulin can be reached at jpaulin@reportalaska.com.

 

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