MTA says overland fiber optic link will be ready by spring of 2020

Friday, October 25, 2019 - 12:38

Progress is being made on a project to help Alaskans reach out and touch their neighbors Outside.

Matanuska Telephone Association CEO Michael Burke visited the Chugiak-Eagle River Chamber of Commerce biweekly lunch forum earlier this month at the Matanuska Alehouse in Eagle River, where he said only about 40 more miles of cable are needed to complete the co-op’s Alcan One project, which when completed next year will become the first overland fiber optic link between Alaska and the Lower 48.

“It’s all buried, which is much easier to maintain,” he said.

[[READ MORE: Alaska telecom starts construction on terrestrial fiber link to Lower 48 (via ADN)]]

MTA currently routes its internet traffic through undersea cables owned by ACS and GCI — for which it pays about $5 million annually in rent. Being able to have its own dedicated fiber optic line will cut costs for MTA and give the co-op more certainty. It will also vastly increase the amount of data that can be sent and received.

“It has almost unlimited capacity,” said Burke of the new line, which will have an initial capacity of 100 terabits per second and can be expanded in the future.

Burke said the new line will be “ready to go” by May or June of next year. The project will link existing fiber optic lines on the Alaska side with those in Canada by installing about 280 miles of underground fiber optic cable between North Pole and Canada.

“It’s sort of that old 1850s railroad story,” Burke said.

Burke said the project is one way the cooperative — which serves about 30,000 members between Eagle River and Healy — is working to expand capacity in an increasingly connected world. Over the next 10 years, he said MTA plans to spend about $250 million on fiber optic improvements.

“We’re always trying to look forward,” he said.

Email Star editor Matt Tunseth at [email protected] or call 257-4274

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