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Internet Speeds Promise Greater Access for Nome

Silhouette of internet tower in Noorvik, Alaska, at sunset.
One of many internet towers in rural Alaska — this one, in Noorvik. Some customers in the Alaska Bush connect to internet through village-based towers, like this one, that relay signals from remote repeater sites, powered by diesel generators. Photo: Lauren Frost, KNOM.

Alaska internet providers Quintillion and GCI recently announced faster internet speeds are coming to Nome and Kotzebue.

GCI says the 1 Gigabit service should bring the two towns’ internet connectivity on par with speeds in New York, Chicago, or Los Angeles.

Alaska’s bush residents have long contended with little connection to the outside world. A few decades ago, KNOM’s young radio volunteers would mail cassette tapes with their voices to the Lower 48 to avoid pricey phone calls.

For the first time, Nome and Kotzebue residents can now access unlimited internet through Quintillion’s fiber network cables. The company took pride in being the first to lay cables across the Arctic, connecting the Asian, European, and North-American fiber networks. However, the connection has remained slow, at speeds nearly 40 times slower than this deal promises, with high monthly rates.

Outside regional hubs, village internet is notoriously unreliable and too expensive for most family budgets. “It’s not only broadband, it’s cellphone service, landline services… We’re paying monthly bills of $150 to over $300 for only two lines of cellphone and they don’t even work in our homes. Even our workplaces don’t have internet or computers,” Blanche Garnie from Teller said last summer.

However, change may be on the horizon. Quintillion says the company is working with Bering Straits Native Corporation and is hopeful for a future solution that extends eastward to the villages surrounding Nome.

Image at top: An internet repeater site near Noorvik.

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Land Acknowledgement

We acknowledge that KNOM Radio Mission is located on the customary lands of Indigenous peoples. 

Based in the Bering Strait region, KNOM broadcasts throughout the homelands of the Iñupiaq, Siberian Yup’ik, Cup’ik and Yup’ik peoples.