Nome 911 service not affected by internet access woes in Western Alaska

Exterior of Nome Police Station

This story was reported and written by KNOM reporter Ava White.

Despite cellular and internet outages across Western Alaska, 911 service in Nome remained working. By Tuesday, Nome saw intermittent cell and internet service return.

On Tuesday afternoon a handful of businesses and ATMs were unable to accept credit, debit or EBT cards.

Quintillion announced Monday an offshore fiber optic line cut north of Oliktok Point, causing a system-wide outage. Quintillion is the only provider of its kind serving Western Alaska and North Slope Arctic regions.

“We’re sailing in waters that we haven’t sailed before,” Nome City Manager Glenn Steckman said.

Steckman said that when you make a call to 911 without service, your phone uses its emergency function to make the call. Steckman adds that the outages do not affect delivery of city services.

“The city maintains its own radio system,” Steckman said. “We don’t depend on outside sources for that. And in fact, the city is looking at investing a large amount of money to bring our radio system up to the best capabilities, but we already have an existing radio system.”

Steckman said that emergency services can maintain communication through the city’s radio system and that the local phone service is working. He added it’s just a matter of who your cell phone carrier is.

“We have gotten dependent on Quintillion and now we’re having to look back okay what can we do what should we do before we had Quintillion,” Steckman said.

The City of Nome is currently looking at internet service alternatives for city services. Steckman added the transition will take time.

Image at top: An exterior view of Nome’s police station. Photo by Brisa Alarcon/KNOM