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MTA Builds Alaska’s “First and Only” Terrestrial Fiber Network

May 2, 2019 | Monitor, Telecom & Tech

AlCan ONE to span from North Pole to Lower 48

Governor Mike Dunleavy, right, and MTA CEO Michael Burke.

MTA Fiber Holdings, a subsidiary of MTA, is building Alaska’s “first and only” all-terrestrial fiber network connecting Alaska to the Lower 48, MTA CEO Michael Burke announced at a press conference on May 1.

“This new terrestrial network will ensure the future viability and growth of the internet in Alaska,” says Burke. “Alaska’s leaders have talked about a terrestrial fiber optic path out of the state for more than twenty years. We are pleased to be the ones to be able to make this a reality. This will be a major win for the people who live, play, and work in Alaska, supporting business, job growth, and ultimately, the state’s economy.”

Governor Mike Dunleavy applauded the move by MTA, saying it is in line with his administration’s goal of Alaska being open for business. “This is good for individuals, schools, businesses, and all Alaskans,” Dunleavy said at the press conference.

Several state officials joined Dunleavy in praising the project.

Senator Shelley Hughes called the news “tremendous,” saying: “I am very grateful for the innovation and forward-thinking that’s been taking place at MTA that’s led to the launch of the all-terrestrial fiber project. It’s exciting that it’s underway now—not years away—that it’s the latest in infrastructure to move us ahead into the future, and that it puts the potential for an information technology hub right in our own backyard.”

Representative DeLena Johnson called the nascent network a “critical step in advancing Alaska’s technological advantages, developing our economy further, and ensuring that Alaska remains competitive with the rest of the world.”

Construction on AlCan ONE (Alaska Canada Overland Network) has commenced in North Pole with a projected completion date of mid-2020. The network will run along the Alcan to the Canadian border where it will interconnect with fiber optic infrastructure being built by Canadian carriers.

Along with creating the first all terrestrial network from Alaska to the Lower 48, AlCan ONE will allow for more geographic diversity, increased bandwidth, and protect against underwater incidents that could disrupt submarine cables, Burke says. “The nice thing about a transport network like this is that it’s easy to maintain. It’s running along the Alaska Canada Highway so it’s right next to a highway that’s maintained 365 days a year, which is a very important feature.”

It will also give MTA direct access to the rest of the United States so the cooperative doesn’t have to pay “significant” broadband fees to other carriers to facilitate high-speed access for its members. “The new all-terrestrial line will lower transport expenses, provide a secure and reliable route to the contiguous United States, and provide Alaska with a stable internet transport connection,” MTA Fiber Holdings said in a press release announcing the project.

AlCan ONE will initially have capacity of more than 100 terabits per second, which can be expanded as demand grows. “We anticipate that the network will carry hundreds of terabits of capacity in the future, which is far more than currently exists by any other means in Alaska. This is something that can last fifty years into the future,” Burke says.

According to the company, only internet traffic that both originates and terminates in the United States will be carried over the network.

MTA is cooperatively owned by about 30,000 customers spanning thousands of miles.

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