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Nushagak Co-op says internet outage was caused by a software issue with Muklung Mountain equipment

Courtesy of Nushagak Cooperative

Update: The internet is back up, after a 17-hour outage that started around 9 p.m. on Monday in Nushagak Cooperative’s service area.

Nushagak Cooperative's internet came back online around 2 p.m. Tuesday, after a 17-hour outage that started around 9 p.m. the night before.  The co-op provides internet to Dillingham, Aleknagik and Clark’s Point.

Nushagak Cooperative General Manager Robert Himschoot said the outage is due to a software issue with the co-op’s radios on Muklung Mountain, which transport data for the internet.

“We can see the radio frequency, we have good signal strength from Muklung Mountain. But the software component of the radio — what actually moves the data — is locked up. So we need to access the mountain,” he said.

Himschoot said technicians flew to the site Tuesday to fix the problem.

“We have to plug into it with a laptop and basically reboot it and  reconfigure it,” he said.

Nushagak Co-op completed its microwave project last year. It now delivers internet via radio frequencies from where the fiber ends in Levelock to Muklung Mountain, where it repeats and goes to Dillingham.

“We have very little problems with them when they’re operating. But we’ve had three or four times now in the last year and a half where they’ve locked up like a computer will lock up," Himschoot said. "So when that happens we have to work with the manufacturer, just like you would have to work with tech support on your computer, to try to do something with the radio to keep it from locking up.”

Nushagak worked with the radios’ manufacturer, Nokia, to install a software update.

Himschoot said there isn’t any clear reason why the radios keep stalling. Even though they’re mostly reliable, when things do break, technicians have to physically go to the sites to fix them.

“Because of the nature of the network, if it happens in Levelock, then we have to get to the radios in Levelock. If it happens in Muklung, we have to get to the radio on Muklung. And when you have weather and you have to access it with a helicopter, that causes some delays,” he said.

Despite the outages, Himschoot said, the microwave upgrade has allowed the co-op to increase internet speeds and the amount of data customers can buy each month. It also reduced overage charges.

“Before we had this we were reselling a wholesale package from GCI. Now, we’re providing our own service," he said. "What comes with that, though, is having to operate a more complex network. And when you operate a more complex network, then these are things that you have to do.”

The internet was back up around 2 p.m. on Tuesday.

Disclaimer: Robert Himschoot volunteers on KDLG’s program advisory board.

This article was updated to reflect that the internet was restored around 2 p.m. Tuesday.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

Contact the author at izzy@kdlg.org or 907-842-2200.

Izzy Ross is the news director at KDLG, the NPR member station in Dillingham. She reports, edits, and hosts stories from around the Bristol Bay region, and collaborates with other radio stations across the state.
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