Telecom companies expand on central Kenai

Three of the Kenai Peninsula’s major telecommunications providers have been busy expanding and improving their networks this summer.

GCI and Alaska Communications, two of the larger phone and internet service providers in the state, are both working on multi-year expansion projects in the central Kenai Peninsula. A third, Homer-based wireless internet provider SPITwSPOTS, is making a move out of the southern peninsula into the Soldotna area with service beginning this summer.

Much of the work GCI has done this year is focused on improving wireless cell coverage and increasing wireless data speeds, said spokesperson Heather Handyside in an email.

“Recent upgrades in Cooper Landing mean GCI customers are getting LTE data speeds and expanded coverage from around the Sunrise Inn to the just past the (Russian River Ferry),” she said. “GCI is in the process of completing upgrades to wireless sites near Seward including Tern Lake, Stoney Creek and in Moose Pass. The improved voice and date coverage along these busy corridors will be important to residents and visitors alike during silver salmon season.”

The $6.3 million project, spread over two years, is set to improve about 30 of GCI’s sites across the peninsula. The company is also working on improving coverage in Homer with upgrades to the Homer Spit tower later this year, she said.

GCI also launched its 1GIG residential internet service on the peninsula this year, a faster speed with unlimited data that was already available to Anchorage-area residents. It’s available in Kenai, Soldotna and Seward now, and set to be available in Homer this fall, Handyside said. The price for the 1GIG service listed on GCI’s website is $174.99 per month.

Alaska Communications is working on expanding its internet options as well. The company is now two years into a network improvement project funded by the Federal Communications Commission expected to last until 2025. Last year,a few residents of Ninilchik got faster internet when the company opened its new connection. This year, the company is launching the fully expanded service in Ninilchik, Funny River and Sterling, said Alaska Communications External Affairs Manager Heather Cavanaugh in an email.

“Speeds will be a minimum of 10Mbps download/1Mbps upload and the price is $79.99/month for unlimited use,” she said.

Alaska Communications’ expansion project is primarily targeted at outlying, underserved areas, per the parameters of its FCC grant. Areas that already have access to broadband of at least 25 megabits per second download with 3 megabits per second upload — like the urban centers of Soldotna and Kenai — don’t qualify. Infrastructure to provide that service is expensive, though, and Alaska is behind many areas of the Lower 48, particularly in rural areas. On the Kenai Peninsula, residents of the urban areas in general have access to internet of that speed — only about 1.5 percent don’t, according to a 2016 update from the FCC. However, about 61.9 percent of the rural population doesn’t have access to internet at that speed, according to the FCC.

SPITwSPOTS is jumping into the competition in the central peninsula as well. Founded in Homer in 2005, the company provides residential, business and enterprise internet service and has been working on establishing its network on towers in the Soldotna area this summer, said CEO Aaron Larson.

“(Expanding to Soldotna) has been a goal of ours for six or seven years,” he said. “We were growing so fast in Homer … we were always catching up with organization. Now we’re trying to be ahead of that curve. We’ve spent the last couple of years really working on becoming a well-run company.”

The company began with the idea of providing WiFi hotspots on the Homer Spit for the tourist season and expanded into offering residential WiFi in the Homer area, growing to include the south side of Kachemak Bay, Anchor Point and more. Beyond providing service, Larson says the company also tries to give back — in Homer, that’s taken the form of providing limited free WiFi service in public spaces.

Beyond the internet packages — which begin at $89 per month, according to SPITwSPOTS’ website — the company also offers a service called whole-home WiFi, with which the company sets up the technology for consistent wireless signal throughout a home. That was previously a consistent issue and source of support calls for the company, Larson said.

He said the company is working on revising its coverage map in the Soldotna area and hope to use what they learn to expand to other communities in the future.

“Right now, anyone the (coverage map) says we were going to get service to we’re going to, and … if we can’t, then when we can we’ll do a free install and a free month of service,” he said. “We pride ourselves on our customer service.”

Reach Elizabeth Earl at eearl@peninsulaclarion.com.

More in News

Kenai City Manager Paul Ostrander speaks at a ribbon-cutting ceremony at Kenai Municipal Airport on Friday, Aug. 6, 2021 in Kenai, Alaska. A kiosk that will offer educational programming and interpretive products about the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge is coming to the airport. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsua Clarion)
Wildlife refuge kiosk coming to airport

Kenai National Wildlife Refuge stickers, T-shirts, magnets, travel stamps and enamel pins will be available.

This illustration provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in January 2020 shows the 2019 Novel Coronavirus. (CDC)
5 more COVID deaths reported

The total nationwide fatalities surpass population of Alaska.

Velda Geller fills goodie bags at the Kenai Senior Center on Friday, Oct. 22, 2021 for next weekend’s drive-through trick-or-treat event. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)
‘This has been a lifesaver’

Seniors seek human connection as pandemic continues.

Kenai City Hall on Feb. 20, 2020, in Kenai, Alaska. (Photo by Victoria Petersen/Peninsula Clarion)
‘A very slippery slope that we need to be careful of’

Approval of library grant postponed after Kenai council requests to preview book purchases

This undated photo released by the Alaska State Department of Public Safety shows Robin Pelkey just before her 18th birthday. The remains of a woman known for 37 years only as Horseshoe Harriet, one of 17 victims of a notorious Alaska serial killer, have been identified through DNA profiling as Robin Pelkey, authorities said Friday, Oct. 22, 2021. (Alaska State Department of Public Safety via AP)
DNA match IDs serial killer’s victim after 37 years

Robin Pelkey was 19 and living on the streets of Anchorage when she was killed by Robert Hansen in the early 1980s, investigators said.

A moose is photographed in Kalifornsky, Alaska, in July 2020. (Peninsula Clarion file)
Illegal moose harvest down from past 5 years

The large majority of moose this year were harvested from North and South Kasilof River areas.

Renee Behymer and Katelyn Behymer (right) of Anchorage win this week’s vaccine lottery college scholarship sweepstakes. (Photo provided)
Dillingham and Anchorage residents win 6th vaccine lottery

“Get it done,” one winner said. “Protect us all, protect our elders and our grandchildren.”

Most Read