Alaska internet providers get redundant

  • Monday, March 30, 2015 10:30pm
  • News

The redundant cable systems used by Alaska Internet service providers are more than an added bonus for their customers.

While not required by law, Internet service providers in the state have chosen to make their systems redundant in order to avoid a situation similar to that which occurred last month in Arizona.

Vandals cut a fiber-optic cable north of Phoenix that resulted in a nearly 15-hour Internet blackout across much of the state last month.

A similar outage is unlikely to occur in Alaska, because Internet service providers in the state have backup systems, said GCI spokesman David Morris. Alaska’s urban areas, including much of the Kenai Peninsula, are connected through a fiber-optic ring, meaning if there were a break in a cable, service could continue uninterrupted due to the information being sent on a different route.

“You need to have two different routes,” Morris said.

GCI connected Alaska to Seattle with the fiber-optic cable system in 1999. According to GCI’s website, the $125 million system contains more than 2,300 miles of cable. Morris said that since the initial leg of the fiber-optic cable ring was completed, the company has continually improved and expanded it.

ACS, another Alaska Internet service provider, also has a redundant fiber-optic system that connects Alaska to the Lower 48. Part of the system, the Alaska-Oregon Network known as AKORN, was constructed in 2009 and connects Alaska to Oregon by undersea cables. ACS’s other fiber-optic line, the Northstar cable system, complements the AKORN cable to provide reliability.

“The AKORN fiber-optic network provides geographic diversity from other networks and redundancy in case of unforeseen circumstances or natural disaster,” according to the ACS website.

Morris said one reason a company wouldn’t have a backup system is that they have just completed the first leg of a ring, and have yet to finish the second.

Aside from providing better reliability, the expansion of the fiber-optic cables allow for more communities to have high-speed Internet.

The percentage of Alaskans without access to high speed Internet is significantly higher than the national average. According to the Federal Communications Commission, 38 percent of Alaskans currently don’t have access, compared to only 16 percent of people nationwide.

There are other ways to provide Internet where the redundant ring systems aren’t available in Alaska. Satellite systems serve as backup to ensure service in more rural parts of the state, Morris said.

While Alaska hasn’t seen any acts of vandalism as impactful as the recent Arizona events, there have been smaller incidents. Morris said in the past, people have been known to shoot at the above ground infrastructure.

Aside from deliberate acts of sabotage, the infrastructure has also been subject to accidents.

“The vast majority is going to be a contractor, backhoe, or a car running into (infrastructure),” Morris said.

Autumn is the season when GCI gets most concerned about accidents. Morris said contractors can get careless when they are in a hurry to finish projects before winter, which can cause an accident. Despite the occasional damage, he said Alaska’s redundant systems are impressive.

“For us to a have more (sophisticated system) than many parts of the Lower 48 speaks highly of the companies in Alaska,” he said.


Reach Ian Foley at

More in News

EPA logo
Alaska Native group to receive EPA funds for clean water projects

The agency is handing out $4.3 million to participating tribal organizations nationwide.

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
State reports 6 new COVID deaths

The deaths, which included a Kenai woman in her 40s, pushed the total to 840 since the pandemic began.

Ryanna Thurman (right) speaks to a library employee at the Soldotna Public Library on Thursday, March 25 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Soldotna library seeks OK for grant fund purchases

The funds are made available under the federal American Rescue Plan Act

Alaska State Troopers logo.
Kenai man killed in vehicle rollover

The man was travelling northbound on the Sterling Highway on Tuesday.

Cheryl Morse and Tom Kleeman prepare Thanksgiving lunch at the Kenai Peninsula Food Bank on Wednesday, Nov. 24, 2021. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)
Food bank opens doors for Thanksgiving lunch

“We don’t know what to expect, so we’re trying to still be cautious on our limited seating.”

Carter Kyle (left), Lincoln Kyle (center) and Brandon Kyle (right) hand off Thanksgiving meals at a drive through event hosted by the Salvation Army on Thursday, Nov. 25, 2021 in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Thanksgiving on the go

Salvation Army hands out meals in drive-thru event

Bench creator, Brad Hughes, pours the molding material over the clay while Rob Wiard and Matt brush the liquid rubber over each character on the bench to ensure it is covered evenly. (Photo by Sarah Knapp/Homer News)
Molds for the Loved Lost Bench are underway

Construction for the memorial bench continues as the rubber molds to shape the concrete are made.

Alaska Rep. David Eastman sits at his desk on the Alaska House floor in Juneau, Alaska, on March 5, 2020. Dozens of West Point graduates have demanded state Rep. Eastman resign from office over his ties to a right wing extremist group, saying his affiliation has betrayed the values of the U.S. Military Academy he attended. (AP Photo/Becky Bohrer, File)
70 West Point grads call on Alaska lawmaker to resign

Fellow West Point graduates called on Eastman to resign after his membership in the Oath Keepers became public.

Most Read