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GCI Updates Rural Broadband Plans

New Terra-SW tower in Koliganek

One year after completing its new fiber optic and microwave broadband infrastructure, known as Terra-Southwest, GCI is updating its rural plans.   

Ever since GCI launched the network, it’s been monitoring the way customers used the increased bandwidth.

"When we turned the switch on for terrestrial connectivity, usage went doubled overnight," said Morris.

GCI spokesperson David Morris says the company was cautious to not change plans too quickly as to not stick data hungry users with enormous fees. 

As of June 5th, GCI bumped up the usage allowance in 67 communities in Bristol Bay and the Y-K delta, by at least 50 percent. That usage is the amount you’re allowed to download in a given month. Overage fees, those per-megabye charges above your plan that can run up a bill quickly also were reduced, by a minimum of 50 percent to a max of 66 percent.

GCI does not sell directly to customers in Dillingham.  Local customers have seen fee cuts realized through Nushagak Cooperative, who utilizes Terra Southwest by buying rural broadband bandwidth through GCI.

Morris says the new microwave network is still being tweaked.

"We've been making additional changes and you're going to see additional modifications to the plans  in the next 2 to 4 months.  It will allow users to have real time monitoring of devices, and perhaps some shared plans, those are other items we're working on,"said Morris.

GCI recently completed the network to Unalakleet and Shaktoolik.  Terra Northwest should reach Nome by the end of the year, and Kotzebue next year.  The idea is to make a full ring around the state.

"It would go from the Kotzebue region and somehow wrap around to the Trans Alaska Pipeline.  We have 3 or 4 different drawings we're working on.  Once you get the ring completed, then you no longer have to worry about outages, and you can most likely increase usage again.  Right now we're trying to make  sure that the usage going throughout the terra region, in the event of some catastrophic failure, has satellite backup.  That is one of the pacing items we are dealing with," said Morris.

GCI is also introducing two new plans, designed for business customers, that allow for 100 gigabytes of monthly usage.