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Bethel Native Corporation

Bethel, AK

Award Amount: $42,383,221

Project Summary: The project proposes the following activities designed to improve access to, and use of, broadband services among Tribal members.

Update: A partnership with Anchorage-based GCI Communications, Inc. will help the Bethel Native Corporation turn $42.3 million into a 405-mile optic connection, bringing 10 communities in western Alaska’s Yukon Kuskokwim Delta online in the process.

The award comes through the National Telecommunications and Information Administration’s Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program.
Bethel President Ana Hoffman calls the effort a way of stabilizing connectivity in areas frequently disrupted by poor weather conditions and their distance from more reliable nodes. 

“There’s times when you have good access and utilization, but it’s not served by fiber, so there’s interruptions and congestion,” Hoffman told Tribal Business News. “We’re going to see a real improvement to our reliability, speed, and affordability of the service out here.” 

The TBCP award will bring connectivity to Bethel, Platinum, Eek, Napaskiak, and Oscarville. A second, $31 million grant from the Department of Agriculture’s ReConnect program will extend the connection to Atmautluak, Kasigluk, Nunapitchuk, Quinhagak, and Tuntutuliak.

Prior Tribal Business News reporting highlights the challenges facing Alaskan connectivity: many areas are underserved, receiving less than the Federal Communications Commission’s requirement for 25 mbps download and 3 mbps upload speeds for a “served” classification. Those that do receive service often pay hundreds of dollars a month for connectivity that only occasionally works as intended. Tribes find themselves having to take extra steps to protect existing connections just to maintain usable speeds throughout the day.

The Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program has since awarded hundreds of millions of dollars to Alaskan projects in hopes of helping tribes address these challenges. 

Land surveys have begun ahead of construction for the project, which GCI plans to bring online in 2024.

“There’s a lot of excitement here,” Hoffman said. “The people of the Y-K Delta are looking forward to having more affordable, reliable connectivity in Western Alaska and we are so glad to work with a partner like GCI to close the digital divide here.”

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About The Author
Chez Oxendine
Staff Writer
Chez Oxendine (Lumbee-Cheraw) is a staff writer for Tribal Business News focusing on Native entrepreneurship, small business development, and the gaming industry. Based in Tulsa, Okla., Oxendine was previously a contributing writer for Native News Online, and his journalism has been featured in the Fort Gibson Times, Muskogee Phoenix, Baconian Magazine, Source Magazine and Oklahoma Magazine, among others.
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