Cordova Telecom Cooperative has unveiled plans to deliver high-speed internet to the community of Yakutat. CTC was awarded an $18,888,668 grant for the project through the Department of Agriculture, according to a Tuesday, Dec. 3 release. The new broadband network is planned to go live by fall 2021.
“We’re very excited about being able to connect to a sister community and to bring modern-day internet communications to their community,” CTC CEO Jeremiah Beckett said. “I think it’ll change a lot of opportunities in that area, especially for the youth.”
The New Internet Communications for Everyone in Yakutat, or NICEY, project will connect Yakutat to Cordova’s submarine fiber optics via a new 230-mile network of microwave towers, according to a release. Installing the network will be challenging, involving construction at five remote sites, Beckett said.
“It’s quite a big build to do,” Beckett said.
All in all, the project will invest over $25 million extending coverage to Yakutat. The project is expected to increase CTC’s total asset value by 50 percent over two years, Beckett said.
The NICEY project will give a boost to Yakutat’s education, health care and other social services, said Nathan Moulton, executive director of the Yakutat Tlingit Tribe.
“Rural connectivity has been a pressing matter and I am so thankful for the hard work and dedication from the folks at Cordova Telecom,” Moulton said in a release. “This is an exciting development and we look forward to seeing you in Yakutat.”
The NICEY project will additionally extend network access along the coast between Cordova and Yakutat. This will allow major improvements in safety and convenience for lodges and aviators between Cordova and Yakutat, Beckett said.
CTC received its grant funding via the USDA’s ReConnect Program, which supports establishing and improving networks in areas with insufficient internet access. The ReConnect Program prioritizes rural areas; areas with farms, businesses, healthcare and education facilities; and Tribal land areas, according to a USDA information sheet.
The ReConnect Program was established in March 2018, catching CTC’s notice almost immediately. CTC spent three months strengthening its application with technical feasibility studies and letters of support from Yakutat stakeholders, Beckett said.
“It was very suspenseful,” Beckett said. “There’s no guarantees. We felt confident in our application, but it was still an unknown… I don’t know how many grants of this size local groups have gotten. It’s pretty big for Cordova.”