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Terrestrial Broadband Connects Native Communities in Southwest Alaska to the World for the First Time

Recently, Alaska Governor Sean Parnell hosted the first live terrestrial videoconference between the State Capital of Juneau and Bethel’s Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corporation (YKHC), which administers a comprehensive health care delivery system for more than 50 rural, primarily Native communities in Southwest Alaska.  The videoconference utilized TERRA-Southwest which now provides terrestrial broadband service for the first time from Anchorage to 65 remote, rural communities in Bristol Bay and the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta. Funding support was provided by USDA Rural Development through the Rural Utilities Service and the Recovery Act.

On the face of it, the news may not elicit much sensation, but let’s look at some facts.  The YKHC and those many, inaccessible villages are located in the Yukon–Kuskokwim Delta, one of the largest river deltas in the world, and at 75,000 square miles it’s roughly the size of Oregon.  Can you imagine the immensity of not only planning, but the logistics in actually constructing the system that made today’s videoconference possible?

Most folks can’t conceive going a day without being able to connect, but the rural residents of Southwest Alaska have been unable to seamlessly connect, or connect at all by broadband technology with anyone until now.  TERRA SW makes 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.

USDA Rural Development Alaska State Director Jim Nordlund was in attendance and shared his perspective of the event.  “This project opens the door for Southwest Alaskans to link up with a great many vital services previously unavailable to them.  The TERRA SW project is a prime example of successfully following President Obama’s directive to bring broadband technology to rural America.”

USDA-Rural Development Alaska State Director Jim Nordlund (left) looks on with Tina Pidgen, GCI Senior Vice President for Government Affairs and Martin Cary, GCI Vice President for Managed Broadband as Alaska Governor Sean Parnell makes a historical connection with Gene Peltola (video right), CEO and president of Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corporation in Bethel.  Photo courtesy of GCI, used with permission.

USDA-Rural Development Alaska State Director Jim Nordlund (left) looks on with Tina Pidgen, GCI Senior Vice President for Government Affairs and Martin Cary, GCI Vice President for Managed Broadband as Alaska Governor Sean Parnell makes a historical connection with Gene Peltola (video right), CEO and president of Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corporation in Bethel. Photo courtesy of GCI, used with permission.

CEO and president of YKHC Gene Peltola spoke to Governor Parnell on the historic video call. “YKHC will be one of the largest beneficiaries of this new network.  It will allow us to continue expanding the use of tele-health applications including video conferencing with doctors, tele-radiology, tele-psychology, implementing new electronic health record applications and much more.”

To find out more about how USDA can help your community improve broadband service click here.

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