FCC announces Tribal Mobility fund bidders

Alaska telecoms will receive federal funding to enhance service in rural Alaska.

General Communications Inc. and Copper Valley Telecom were named winning bidders for Universal Service Fund support for work to upgrade to either 3G or 4G service in several locations, including Barrow, Nome, Hooper Bay, Kotzebue, Mountain Village, Unalaska and the Copper River area.

The money is part of the FCC Tribal Mobility Fund Phase I Auction, and will go toward providing 3G or better service and expanded broadband access. The Federal Communications Commission announced $49 million in funds for five companies Feb. 28.

 “This is a great day for rural Alaska,” said Sen. Mark Begich, a member of the Senate Commerce Committee, in a formal statement. “Today’s FCC auction results mean that Alaska companies will now be able to provide sorely needed telecommunication services across our vast state. From Eek, to Nunam Iqua, to Unalaska, several rural communities will soon be better connected.”

GCI submitted 51 winning bids for a total of $41.4 million. According to its filings, the work the company is planning will reach 37,253 people.

Copper Valley submitted 11 winning bids worth $152,400, for work that will reach 127 people.

Now, the winning bidders, including GCI and Copper Valley, must submit longer-form applications that include an extensive project description, budget and schedule by April 4.

The largest winning bids in Alaska were for projects near Barrow and Nome. The companies also must complete certain Tribal Engagement work.

“Senator Begich’s efforts with the FCC have been critical to ensuring that rural Alaskans have access to mobile services that are comparable to those available throughout the country,” said GCI’s General Counsel and Senior Vice President of Governmental Affairs Tina Pidgeon, in a formal statement. “The winning GCI bids underscore how many Alaskans are without 3G or greater service today, reflect the significant costs of serving rural Alaska communities, and demonstrate GCI’s commitment to taking the necessary steps to deliver high quality mobile data and voice services statewide.”

— Molly Dischner

03/06/2014 - 7:14am