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Terrestrial Broadband Connects Southwest Alaska to the World for the First Time


ANCHORAGE, AK-- General Communication, Inc. (“GCI”) (NASDAQ:GNCMA) announced today that on Thursday, January 12, Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell hosted the first live terrestrial videoconference between Juneau and Bethel’s Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corporation (YKHC).

The videoconference utilized TERRA-Southwest, an $88 million terrestrial broadband “middle mile” project constructed by GCI’s wholly owned subsidiary, United Utilities Inc., using federal broadband stimulus funding provided by the Department of Agriculture’s Rural Utilities Service. 

The Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corp. is working with GCI through an initial test phase expected to last two weeks. Broadband connectivity will be fully available for residential and commercial customers after testing.  

Speaking to Gov. Parnell on the historic video call was the CEO and president of YKHC, Gene Peltola. “Getting Southwest Alaska off satellite and onto TERRA-SW is a major accomplishment for GCI and its subsidiaries. YKHC will be one of the largest beneficiaries of this new network. It will allow us to continue expanding the use of telehealth applications including video conferencing with doctors, teleradiology, telepsychology, implementing new electronic health record applications and much more.”

The videoconference call was made possible by 404 miles of newly installed fiber optic cable, running from Homer to Levelock in Bristol Bay, and 13 new microwave sites, including four remote mountaintop towers outside Dillingham.  The call between Juneau and Bethel transited over existing fiber optic cables between Juneau and Homer.

TERRA-SW provides terrestrial broadband service for the first time from Anchorage to 65 remote, rural communities in Bristol Bay and the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta, making terrestrial broadband available to more than 9,000 households and nearly 750 public, non-profit and private community institutions, including regional healthcare providers, school districts and Alaska Native organizations.

“TERRA-SW is a monumental achievement for Alaska,” said Ron Duncan, GCI president. “We continue to be thankful for the Rural Utilities Service’s continuing support for rural Alaska.  We also appreciate the support given to TERRA-SW by our friends and customers in Bristol Bay and the Delta and by our Governor and Congressional Delegation.  The public and private investment in TERRA-SW will provide Southwest Alaskans health, education, public safety, and economic development benefits for decades to come.”

Users will immediately experience the benefit of lower latency on internet connections. Satellite connections typically have more than a one-half second delay because of the distance the signal must travel. With terrestrial connectivity, that delay will be as low as one tenth of a quarter second. 

“Southwest Alaskans who are connected via TERRA-SW will finally be on the information superhighway,” said Duncan. “Faster speed and lower latency beckons a new opportunity for a region of America that is the size of the state of Oregon. We plan to push on to Unalakleet this year with terrestrial connectivity, and then to Nome in 2013.”

Long distance calling has already been routed through the new broadband hybrid microwave/fiber network for most customers. Callers will notice the lack of latency in calls to and from the region, resulting in more normal speaking without satellite-caused delays.

Satellite facilities will remain in place throughout Southwest Alaska in the event of an outage on TERRA-SW. 

During the next two weeks, as GCI tests the network and moves voice and data traffic from satellite to terrestrial, GCI customers in the Bethel and Dillingham region may experience brief, periodic outages.

GCI (Nasdaq: GNCMA) is an Alaska-based integrated communications provider and the second largest wireless provider in Alaska. As a pioneer in bundled services, GCI provides local, long distance and wireless telephone, video services, Internet and data communications services throughout Alaska. For more information, visit www.GCI.com.


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