Unlimited internet at 10 times the speed is coming to Nushagak Cooperative service areas

Aug 23, 2021

Nushagak Cooperative, Dillingham’s utility co-op, is set to bring unlimited internet to all service areas by 2023 with help from a $16.7 million federal grant. The co-op is one of 18 utility companies across the country to receive the grant from the United States Department of Agriculture.

Credit Nushagak Cooperative

Nushagak Cooperative, Dillingham’s utility co-op, is set to bring unlimited internet to all service areas by 2023 with help from a $16.7 million federal grant. Those communities include Aleknagik, Clarks Point, Dillingham, Ekuk, Manokatak and Portage Creek.

The co-op is one of 18 utility companies across the country to receive the grant from the United States Department of Agriculture.

Right now, residents in the area can only get a maximum of 300 gigabytes of bandwidth at around $180 per month. The new, unlimited plans will come at no extra cost to residents. The internet will also be 10 times faster than its current speeds.

CEO Bob Himschoot said the upgrade is a “game changer.”

“The sort of capacity that can be provided by fiber connection is a completely different level than the microwave," Himschoot said. "The microwave was an increase service level to our communities but it is still bandwidth limited. Fiber is a permanent transport scalable for future needs.”

At Nushagak Cooperative's annual meeting in Spring this year, the co-op shared what the proposed route would like.
Credit Nushagak Cooperative

The proposed route to install the fiber cable would run from the co-op’s microwave antenna site in Levelock, to Ekwok, then Aleknagik to Dillingham. Those cables will also be routed from the cable plant to homes in Dillingham and Aleknagik. 

Temptel Inc.,  a science and technical consulting firm based in Anchorage, will oversee environmental and engineering studies for the proposed route. The firm has contracted with two separate groups to conduct cultural and wetland studies. Stephen R. Braund & Associates, an anthropological firm in Anchorage will handle cultural studies. Travis and Peterson Environmental Studies will perform wetland studies.

Nushagak's telecom operations manager, Trung Vo, said those studies are underway.

“Anything that’s considered historic we’ll definitely be trying to avoid," Vo said. "There will be a review in the engineering plan and environmental studies, make sure everyone is on the same page and not going to be disturbing anything in the environment. We expect to have very minimal impact.”

The proposed route could change if any conflicts are found during field surveys. Those reports are expected to be submitted to the USDA for permit approval in late fall. If approved, construction would begin next year.

Nushagak Cooperative estimates that the project will cost $24 million. The co-op will use money from the USDA grant and $6.5 million in term loan money from the National Rural Utilities Cooperative Finance Corporation, or CFC. The co-op will front the remaining $784,000 in capital assets.

Disclaimer: Nushagak Cooperative CEO Bob Himschoot is the chair of KDLG's volunteer program advisory board.

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