Alaska’s Senators, Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan, have welcomed the allocation of nearly $54 million in additional grants for the federal Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program. One of the grants, amounting to $4.5 million, will be used to purchase and install Starlink, a low Earth orbit satellite communications network owned by SpaceX, in 1,410 homes and nine community institutions on the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta. This marks the first mention of federal funding for Starlink in Alaska.
The majority of the funds received under the tribal program, totaling over $400 million, are being directed towards fiber-optic network projects led by GCI, the primary internet service provider for Western Alaska, and its partners. The grants aim to address the network disruptions experienced by GCI customers following a subsea fiber-optic cable cut in the Beaufort Sea. It highlights the necessity for backup options and broadband redundancy in rural communities to ensure the resilience of networks during outages.
The remaining portion of the grants will be distributed among seven other projects under the tribal broadband program. More than half of the funds will be allocated to Alaska Tribal Spectrum, which aims to bring “2.5Ghz spectrum and/or satellite service” to unserved tribal households, businesses, and community institutions across Alaska.
Other specific grants include $8 million for planning and engineering studies in Igiugig Village, $29.5 million for a wireless network installation in Alaska Tribal Spectrum, $7 million for last-mile wireless deployment infrastructure in Alaska Native Villages, $500,000 for equipment upgrades in the current system of the Alutiiq Tribe of Old Harbor, $999,997 for pre-construction planning and design in Benhti Economic Development Corporation, $991,974 for satellite internet service subsidies in Chugachmiut, $2,467,546 for network upgrades in Huna Totem Corporation, and $4.5 million to purchase and install Starlink in Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta Tribal Broadband.
These grants aim to expand and improve broadband connectivity in Alaska’s tribal communities, ensuring better access to reliable internet services.