Power Outage, Equipment Failures Temporarily Disrupt Long-Distance Services in Western AK

In Noorvik, the GCI tower juts up into the morning air. It is silhouetted against blue skies and partial clouds.

Long distance phone service has been restored to four Western Alaska communities after being knocked out for most of last week.

Due to a power outage and a faulty piece of system equipment, Marshall, Mountain Village, Russian Mission, and St. Mary’s were without wireless, internet, or long distance service for three days.

According to GCI’s senior director of corporate communications, Heather Handyside, services were up and running again on Saturday, once repairs were made to the faulty equipment. Without getting into the specifics, Handyside stated that the whole GCI network is interconnected, and if one part of the system fails, then it could ultimately affect the entire network.

In addition to affecting residents’ ability to make phone calls out, lack of internet services also prevented credit card machines from working in the four communities. One concerned citizen reported that a Ravn Air flight was grounded in St. Mary’s for an unknown amount of time due to the outages.

Eventually, GCI had to charter a plane to St. Mary’s to deliver new equipment, along with further resources flown out from Bethel, in order to fix the service issue.

Handyside says GCI’s infrastructure in rural communities normally has backups installed for these types of power outages, but depending on the source of the outage, sometimes the backups just don’t work.

Image at top: KNOM file photo: a GCI tower in rural Alaska.