Company completes 1st overland fibre-optic cable connecting Alaska to continental U.S.

Northwestel works on a fibre line outside Haines Junction, Yukon. A new 772-kilometre overland link begins near Fairbanks, Alaska, and ends at Haines Junction, Yukon, where it connects to cables installed by Northwestel. (Submitted by Northwestel)
An Alaska company has completed construction of the first overland fibre-optic cable connecting the state to the continental U.S.

The cable operated by Matanuska Telephone Association is expected to reduce Alaska’s reliance on undersea cables and satellite and microwave links for high-speed internet and telephone service, The Anchorage Daily News reported Tuesday.

Matanuska Telephone CEO Michael Burke declined to reveal the cost of the new cable, citing confidentiality agreements with the company’s Canadian partners.

Alaska’s sub-sea cables are vulnerable to earthquakes and an overland connection offers a “geographically diverse route” for internet traffic, Burke said.

The cable’s completion will eliminate the company’s payments of millions of dollars annually to lease capacity in the undersea cables, which are predominantly owned by GCI and Alaska Communications Systems Group Inc., he said.

The company expects to sell cable access to other telecommunications companies, but does not plan to offer internet service to customers along the Alaska Highway, said Francis LaChapelle, vice-president of wholesale and carrier relations.

The 772-kilometre (480-mile) overland link begins at North Pole, Alaska, near Fairbanks and ends at Haines Junction, Yukon, where it connects to cables installed by Northwestel, the dominant telecom company in northern Canada. Northwestel’s cables connect to the rest of North America.

Construction of the new link began in April 2019 with Alaska Directional LLC as the lead contractor and finished on schedule.

Obtaining federal permits needed to cross the border took more than a year, Matanuska Telephone vice-president of engineering Eric Anderson said.

Republican U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan helped obtain the permitting, Anderson said.

Related stories from around the North:

Canada: Northwestel looking to build fibre line under Great Slave Lake in Northern Canada, CBC News

Finland: Major step towards a Europe-Asia Arctic cable link, Yle News

Greenland: Canadian eastern Arctic: Nunavut-Greenland fibre cable to cost $80M more than planned, CBC News

Norway: New satellites to boost communications in Arctic Norway, The Independent Barents Observer

Russia: Russian military to get fast, secure internet through trans-Arctic cable, The Independent Barents Observer

United States: Alaska’s first wireless 5G network to be built in Anchorage, Alaska Public Media

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