Frontiersman: Matanuska Telephone Association receives $12.6 million grant to provide fiber optic service to Tyonek

Matanuska Telecom Association has been awarded a $12.62 million federal broadband grant to build a fiber-optic link to Tyonek, according to Alaska’s two U.S. senators, Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan. Households and schools in the community, mainly Alaska Native and with a population of 151 in the 2020 census, will benefit from high-speed internet.

The investment will help MTA deploy 41 miles of fiber-to-the-premises (to homes) network to the Tyonek Alaska Native Village, bringing service capable of 100/100 megabits per second to the community, a 1000 percent increase in speed compared to currently available service in the area, MTA said in its announcement.

The award is one of several announced this week for Alaska this week under the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s ReConnect Program, which helps fund improved telecommunications service to underserved communities.

It is the fourth round of grants through USDA’s ReConnect program.

In addition to making high-speed internet affordable by participating in the Federal Communications Commission's Lifeline and Affordable Connectivity Programs, MTA will provide workshops to inform Tyonek community members about available assistance plans, the association said.

“We are proud to receive this grant and empower the people and businesses of the Native Village of Tyonek with strong and secure broadband service,” said Michael Burke, CEO of MTA. “We’re working to make the term ‘digital divide’ a thing of the past,” he said.

Other grants announced this week went to the Interior Telephone Co., for $34.99 million to extend fiber networks in the Nome region, and including the villages of Skaktoolik; St. Micheal; Stebbins and Unakaleet. Muluk Telephone Co. will receive a similar $34.98 million grant to support construction of high-speed internet to Wales and Inalik on the Seward Peninsula; Copper Valley Telephone Cooperative will receive $17.89 million for fiber networks serving Valdez and Cordova.

The ReConnect awards were made through the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, or IIJA.

“All Americans deserve access to high-speed internet, but too many rural Alaskans still struggle with reliable connectivity. This $100 million investment is good news for many communities in our state who deserve better access and faster speeds,” said Alaska U.S. Sen. SLisa Murkowski. “When crafting the bipartisan infrastructure law, I was focused on connecting Alaskans. Whether it’s by improving our roads, marine highway system, ports, airports, or broadband access—the bipartisan infrastructure law’s investments are continuing to connect Alaskans like never before.”

Alaska U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan, who made the announcement jointly with Murkowski, said: “Access to high-speed, reliable internet can be transformative for our communities, enhancing the delivery of health care and education, and opening doors for small businesses and entrepreneurs.”

“Many of our rural communities for too long have found themselves without the broadband connectivity that most Americans take for granted. I’m glad to see the significant federal infrastructure dollars we secured being deployed to break down the digital divide and improve the lives and well-being of thousands of Alaskans across Alaska,” Sullivan said.

Fourteen awards were made previously in three rounds under the USDA ReConnect program totaling $305 million and $53 million in local matching funds. These include grants to Alaska Power & Telephone for fiber links serving Southeast Alaska communities; to Arctic Slope Telephone Association for fiber projects in Anaktuvuk Pass and Point Lay; an award to Cordova Telecom Cooperative for high-speed internet to Yakutat, Cordova, Seward and Chenega; to Mukluk Telephone for service ro Teller and Brevig Mission on the Seward Peninsula; GCI’s Aleutians fiber.

Murkowski said Alaska has received $3.9 billion in infrastructure grants to date under the IIJA, including the broadband grants. On broadband alone, $1.7 billion has been invested drawing from several federal programs prior to the IIJA.

Between 2017 and 2022 70,000 locations in Alaska have been upgraded and 50,000 Alaskans have been improved wireless service.

By:  Tim Bradner
Source: Frontiersman