While Alaska’s economy has shown signs of rebounding, the past few years have been marked by job and revenue loss that have created fiscal uncertainty in some of Alaska’s most critical industries. This uncertainty has stifled investment in our state’s economy and compounded economic stagnation. Throughout this period, GCI has remained committed to Alaska and our more than 2,000 employees across the state. We’ve continued to invest across Alaska when others were either unable or unwilling. In fact, over the past decade, GCI has invested nearly $114 million to increase and improve service on the Kenai Peninsula – more than $40 million of that just in Kenai and Soldotna.
Through consistent and extensive investment, GCI provides fast, reliable internet and wireless speeds, ensuring a better online experience and higher quality of life. Better connectivity is important for entertainment, but also paves the way for safer and more educated communities. Teachers are able to access the latest and greatest online resources. More academic opportunities are unlocked for students through long-distance education. Hospitals and clinics throughout the state can better serve Alaskans through the telehealth network. And efficient communications channels enables first responders to react more quickly and efficiently so that Alaskans can feel confident that help is on the way.
This fall GCI is wrapping up a two-year, $6.3 million project to improve wireless service on the Kenai Peninsula. From Tern Lake to Seward, and Cooper Landing all the way down to the Homer Spit, GCI has upgraded 37 tower sites, expanding our LTE footprint and improving coverage so that our customers will get better reception and performance inside homes and businesses. Since 2014, has invested more than $180 million in our wireless network which is the largest in the state.
GCI has worked hard this year to bolster broadband service across the Peninsula. GCI launched 1GIG internet service, the fastest speed available to consumers, in Kenai, Seward and Soldotna earlier this year and will deliver 1GIG to customers in Homer in September. More than 77 percent of Alaskans have access to 1GIG internet, enjoying the same speeds as you would in major metropolitan areas like Los Angeles or San Francisco.
Network upgrades are obviously at the top of our investment list, but we also take great pride in being a good neighbor and investing in the social fabric of the communities we serve. Each year, GCI gives more than $2 million through direct donations, in-kind services and products, to organizations like the Alaska SeaLife Center, American Cancer Society and the Kenai Peninsula Food Bank.
Over the past five years, GCI has donated more than $285,000 to Kenai Peninsula non-profit organizations, and we are proud to make a difference in the community through a variety of programs, including:
GCI Suicide Prevention Grant Program: The Kenai Peninsula Borough School was able to introduce the nationally-recognized “Sources of Strength” program to many of its classrooms after receiving grant funding from GCI.
GCI Scholarship Program: Four students from Kenai Peninsula communities were each awarded with a $2,000 grant for their tuition and books during the 2018-19 academic year.
Employee volunteerism: Every GCI employee is given 16 hours of paid community service leave to volunteer for organizations and causes that spark their passions.
Whether it’s through the gift of time or a donation at a fundraiser, we at GCI believe giving back to the communities we serve helps build strong, vibrant communities.
GCI is an Alaska born and raised company. Our employees live, work and raise their families on the Peninsula and are proud to call it home, even when the salmon aren’t running as strong as we’d like. GCI strives to be more than just a cable company. We’re committed to Alaskans, fostering strong relationships with the community, and creating a brighter and better-connected future on the Kenai Peninsula.
Denise Nyren is director of GCI Regional Operations on the Kenai Peninsula.