Survey Started On SEALink, Alaska’s New Cable System
By Erik Stone
June 22, 2021
A new fiber optic cable is planned to connect communities on Prince of Wales Island with the mainland to boost internet speeds for homes, businesses and schools. A survey ship will soon begin mapping the seafloor to determine the best route for the 214-mile undersea connection to improve online access for the island.
Alaska Power & Telephone’s Jason Custer says the federally funded project would dramatically improve internet access in the island towns of Kasaan and Coffman Cove, bringing the maximum available speed to at least 100 megabits per second, both for uploads and downloads. Those two communities currently rely on a combination of wireless and satellite internet.
“I would say the difference is like going between riding a mountain bike down a trail through the forest to driving over a superhighway full of data in a Lamborghini.” Custer said. “It’s an enormous difference in what is possible.”
AP&T says in a statement it’s also on track to build a land-based fiber optic network connecting homes and businesses in these Prince of Wales Island communities by 2022.
“When the cable is complete, in 2023, that will give us the capacity and the ability to offer very high speed internet in Coffman Cove and Kasaan. And from then, we would be looking at improving service in the other communities on Prince of Wales as well,” Custer said.
That timeline is roughly two years sooner than the company’s initial projections. Last October, it said the cable would be operational by 2025. Custer said the undersea cable would supplement the existing microwave network that brings internet service to the island.
But the company cautions that red tape could slow the project down.
“The schedule will ultimately depend upon the timing of permitting processes, and environmental approval processes managed by USDA,” reads the statement from AP&T.
The project is supported by a $21.5 million federal U.S. Department of Agriculture rural broadband grant announced last October under the Trump administration. AP&T said at the time it was committing $7 million of its own money to the project, which it’s dubbed “SEALink.”