AT&T debuts cell-service drone in Puerto Rico

A certain “flying cow” will be remembered long after it’s left Puerto Rico.

In this case, it’s AT&T’s drone invention, a cell on wings also known as a COW. At work in Puerto Rico, AT&T crews from Alaska and Washington reconnected residents of several devastated areas with cell service, using a new technology for the first time.

LTE-connected drones hold a lot of potential for FirstNet-subscribers, AT&T’s Kathryn Spencer said, referring to the telecom’s contract to develop, build and operate the nationwide broadband network for first responders.

Alaska Communications gains in broadband as FCC funds slip

Alaska Communications Systems Group Inc. reported modest 0.4 percent gains as revenues increased in third quarter to $56.7 million with growth attributed to advancements in fixed wireless technology and losses attributed to a shortage in Universal Services Funds for the Rural Health Care Program.

In a year-over-year comparison to 2016, Alaska Communications saw overall revenue rise from $56.5 million to $56.7 million. Of that, business and wholesale provided 61.5 percent of the total revenue, up to $31.3 million from $29.4 million, or a gain of 6.4 percent.

Alaska SBA office hosts Amazon for e-commerce workshop

Amazon is opening a “big door” to Alaska’s small business entrepreneurs, inviting them to sell their goods and services via the shopping giant’s network.

“It’s a worldwide door at Amazon,” an official with the organization told a packed crowd at a Nov. 8 workshop put on by the Small Business Administration Alaska District Office.

While there’s talk or hopes that the e-commerce giant might open an Alaska branch — and according to Amazon spokesman Erik Fairleigh, that’s not out of the question — the big topic of the day was how to use Amazon’s network.

Entrepreneurs bring slate of new ideas to 10th Startup Weekend

The 10th annual Startup Weekend Nov. 10-12 brought out seven teams and about 45 participants spending 58 hours on a weekend researching and vetting new business ideas with total strangers at the Boardroom in Downtown Anchorage

The Boardroom, a co-working space that’s become known as a hive of entrepreneurial activity in the state, hosted the slate of emerging business ideas that by Sunday night ranged from cultural awareness gifting for corporations to new tech apps to financial startups.

Movers and Shakers for Nov. 19

FISH FACTOR: Seafood jobs in 2016 mirrored decline in harvests

Fewer men and women went out fishing in Alaska last year, in a familiar cycle that reflects the vagaries of Mother Nature.

A focus on commercial fishing in the November Economic Trends by the Alaska Department of Labor shows that the number of boots on deck fell by 5 percent in 2016 to about 7,860 harvesters, driven by the huge shortfall in pink salmon returns and big declines in crab quotas.

Fishing for salmon, which accounts for the majority of Alaska’s fishing jobs, fell by 6.4 percent statewide in 2016, a loss of 323 workers.

GUEST COMMENTARY: More investment, not more taxes, will bring more oil

There’s new math, old math and just plain crazy math, which best describes the latest formula from Sens. Berta Gardner and Tom Begich to close our fiscal gap in part by raising taxes on oil and gas a seventh time in 12 years.

The Bookworm Sez: Who owns your ideas?

As a kid, what was your favorite toy?

You can probably remember it instantly: the thing you couldn’t bear to leave at home, the doll you spent hours with, the toy truck that road-tripped your imagination. Just thinking of it gives you a warm feeling and a wistful smile, but in “You Don’t Own Me” by Orly Lobel, you’ll read about two toy companies that weren’t playin’.

Years after it happened, Carter Bryant couldn’t tell you what spurred him to think the way he did that sunny afternoon.

Mixed reaction to AK LNG-China letter

Gov. Bill Walker and his gasline team touted an agreement signed Nov. 8 with three Chinese mega-corporations as the largest step the state has ever taken towards finally putting together a North Slope natural gas project.

After a few days to digest the situation, legislators’ reaction has been more subdued.

ConocoPhillips plans for busy exploration season

It’s going to be a busy winter for ConocoPhillips.

The company that has led exploration into the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska west of the existing North Slope oil fields is heading back into the federal lands to drill four more greenfield wells early in 2018, according to spokeswoman Natalie Lowman.

Marijuana taxes near total for alcohol; testing under scrutiny

So far this year, Alcohol and Marijuana Control Office investigations show more notices of violations were handed out to bars than to marijuana operations by a count of 57 to 44.

Tax revenue from marijuana operations this year through October is $1.5 million, while alcohol tax generated $2.2 million. Budgets for each segment for AMCO in 2017 came to $1.6 million for alcohol and $1.2 million for marijuana.

Unpaid tax credits, logistical issues slow Inlet producers

A pair of small companies working in Cook Inlet are trying to overcome funding shortfalls stemming from the State of Alaska not yet making good on promised tax credit refunds.

Furie Operating Alaska and BlueCrest Energy, both Texas-based independents, had to interrupt their 2017 work plans because expected tax credit repayments from the state did not come through.

Brooks Range Petroleum seeks more time as Mustang delayed again

Brooks Range Petroleum Corp. leaders are asking state regulators for another year to bring their small and long-delayed North Slope oil project to fruition.

Bart Armfield, CEO of Anchorage-based Brooks Range wrote in the 2018 plan of development document for the company’s Mustang oil project submitted to the Division of Oil and Gas Oct. 23 that first oil is not expected now until early 2019.

The 2017 plan, submitted to and approved by the division last fall, pegged first production for this December. According to what Armfield wrote, that isn’t close to happening.

GCI reports $9M loss in 3Q; gets OK for Liberty merger

General Communications Inc. posted a net loss of $9 million in third quarter as subscriber declines continue in cable TV, data and wireless customers.

With business revenue nearly flat, the $5 million decline in consumer revenue year-over-year was roughly equal to the overall decline from $236.6 million to $231.2 million in total revenue in the third quarter.

GOP begins advancing tax bill with insurance mandate repeal

WASHINGTON (AP) — Republicans began pushing a broad tax cut for businesses and many individuals through the Senate Finance Committee on Nov. 15, a measure complicated by a late addition — repeal of the Affordable Care Act requirement that Americans get insurance coverage.

Erasing the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate provided Republicans with more money that they used to make some tax breaks for people modestly more generous. But it raised questions about whether it might prompt some moderate GOP senators to back away from the measure.

House keeps special session alive after Senate calls it quits

The Alaska House isn't giving up on the special legislative session, even though the Senate has called it quits.

The House majority coalition on Monday announced plans to hold technical sessions until the special session ends Nov. 21.

The House plans for the two Juneau members to preside over the technical sessions, for which attendance isn't mandatory, to keep the special session alive. That will force the Senate to hold similar sessions since one body can't adjourn without the other.

Special sessions can last up to 30 days, and Nov. 21 would be the 30th day.

Alaska Senate adjourns session after passing crime bill

The Alaska Senate brushed off constitutional concerns and approved a crime bill Friday, but sidestepped taxes when ending the special legislative session.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Alaska warned lawmakers that a provision of the crime bill, passed by the House this week, would make presumptive sentence ranges for first-time Class C and Class B felonies the same.

Port gets new name, but problems remain

The Port of Anchorage is no more.

No, it did not slough off into Cook Inlet overnight, though parts of it have.

Rather, the Anchorage Assembly changed its name to the Port of Alaska on Oct. 24, a gesture intended to emphasize the importance of the ailing infrastructure to all of Alaska, not just its largest city.

Regardless of the name, the price tag to keep it in service for the next 75 years remains at upwards of $700 million.

Steve Ribuffo

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