MTA officials say new high-speed internet project will expand connectivity, increase internet speeds across Alaska

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ANCHORAGE (KTUU) - A subsidiary of the Matanuska Telephone Association, MTA Fiber Holdings, has begun construction on what officials say is the first and only terrestrial fiber line from Alaska to the contiguous United States, expanding connectivity and expected to exponentially increase internet speeds across the state.

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"Deploying hundreds of miles of new fiber optic cable throughout our region," said MTA CEO Michael Burke, "in order to provide broadband to thousands of people that don't have it right now."

MTA, which was established in 1953 and is locally owned and operated, has said that AlCan ONE - as the line has been named - will establish a "secure and reliable fiber connection to any point in the contiguous United States [...] providing Alaska with a robust internet transport connection for decades to come."

Fiber optic internet lines are not entirely new to Alaska - though access is significantly lesser in the Last Frontier as compared to the Lower 48 - but the installation is different, as is the path to a centralized source. The cable in the MTA project is indeed similar to ones already operated by companies such as GCI and Alaska Communications. Their lines, however, are in large part submarine, laid beneath the Gulf of Alaska. Then you have the ever-expensive satellite operations, and some wireless connections as well. The land-based fiber optic line that MTA is in the process of installing will be a few feet underground.

"It's a buried cable that's going to go essentially along the Alaska-Canada Highway," Burke said. "We'll have ability to breakout bandwidth to any of those communities along that route."

AlCan ONE will run from North Pole, Alaska, and extend through Canada, and end at a main hub in Seattle, Washington. Initially, the network will have a capacity of more than 100 terabits, or 12,500 gigabytes, per second. A firm representing MTA said that figure could rise, as the allowance "can be expanded and increased in the future as demand grows."

As part of what officials called an "extremely large impact on Alaska," MTA said the payoff will be more accessibility and connectivity for subscribers and partner subscribers, though they could not provide details as to cost savings versus methods such as satellite services. A company representative also said that the contracts the company has for the network are subject to non-disclosure - for competitive reasons - and thus the cost of the project is unavailable public dissemination.

Officials added that the construction phase will add dozens of jobs to the Alaska market, and while MTA will not necessarily serve all of the rural communities in the area of AlCan ONE, the company will be able to provide service to other companies that do reach some of those populations.

The plan is to have the project completed by mid-2020, likely sometime around June.

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