Alaska, often celebrated for its breathtaking natural beauty, is also known for its unique challenges in providing high-speed internet access. In Ookla's Speedtest ranking of internet speeds for the 50 states, Alaska ranks at the bottom. However, amid the challenges, there are glimmers of hope as the state is receiving over $1 billion in federal funding to improve internet in Alaska access in underserved communities. Here, we'll explore the internet options in Alaska, the best providers, the state of broadband, and what the future holds.
In the vast Alaskan landscape, GCI is recognized as one of the best Alaska internet providers. It stands out due to its extensive availability, covering over 70% of Alaska households. GCI offers a range of connection types, from fiber-cable hybrid to wireless. Its top speeds of 2.5 gigabits per second make it a compelling choice, especially for those in more urban areas like Anchorage.
Alaska Communications, on the other hand, offers one of the most widespread DSL networks in the state and operates a small fiber network, providing alternatives in regions where GCI might not be available.
For those in remote locations where wired options are limited, Starlink, a satellite internet provider, offers impressive top speeds and doesn't require a long-term contract.
|Starting Monthly Cost
|200 Mbps to 2
|250 Mbps to 2.5 Gig
|3 Mbps to 30 Mbps
|Matanuska Telephone Association
|3 Mbps to 125 Mbps
Rural Alaska residents often have to choose between satellite, fixed wireless, or DSL connections. DSL, offered by local companies, utilizes existing telephone cooperatives' infrastructure, but it may have slower top speeds compared to cable or fiber.
However, GCI is actively working on network expansions into rural areas. Their AU-Aleutians Fiber Project aims to bring high-speed connections to communities in remote locations. Other local ISPs, such as Mountain Beam and Borealis Broadband, offer fixed WiFi in Alaska but this can be expensive for top-end speeds.
Comparing fixed wireless to satellite plans, Starlink stands out with its potential for higher top speeds, though the initial equipment fee can be steep.
While the FCC data suggests that over 93% of Alaskan residents can access broadband speeds, this includes satellite internet, which isn't always the best solution due to cost and lack of a clear view of the sky. Fiber access is limited, with only about 6% of residents having access to fiber, and even fewer can access gig speeds.
Building extensive T-Mobile coverage in Alaska is challenging due to the state's remote areas and rugged terrain. Nonetheless, there are some pockets of fiber service, such as Copper Valley Telecom providing speeds up to 1,000Mbps in Valdez.
Fast Alaska internet can be scarce, with only about 75% of homes having access to speeds of at least 100Mbps. At gigabit speeds, the availability drops significantly to just 4.5%. Ookla's Speedtest ranking places Alaska at the bottom of state speeds, with a median download speed of around 86Mbps, compared to the national average of 207Mbps.
GCI is recognized as the fastest provider in Alaska by Ookla, with a median download speed of 250Mbps. However, these speeds can vary by location, and the bigger cities tend to have higher speeds.
Internet prices in Alaska are higher than in the contiguous 48 states. While GCI and Alaska Communications offer WiFi Alaska under $100, speeds can vary based on location and connection type. Many budget-friendly services available in other states are not accessible in Alaska.
The federal Affordable Connectivity Program offers financial assistance to qualified low-income households in Alaska, helping reduce their monthly internet bills. Most ISPs in the state participate in this program, with some offering specific plans for ACP customers.
Alaska's unique challenges, including its harsh weather and remote locations, have historically hindered broadband expansion. However, with over $1 billion in federal funding dedicated to broadband expansion and ambitious projects by providers like GCI, the state is poised to improve internet access in unserved and underserved communities.
While fiber access remains limited, initiatives like Cordova Telecom Cooperative's submarine fiber optic cable project and USDA funding for fiber and wireless internet in various areas offer hope for a brighter digital future in Alaska.
So, Alaska's internet landscape presents challenges, but there are promising developments on the horizon. For Alaskans, the dream of high-speed, reliable internet is becoming more attainable due to T-Mobile in Alaska, thanks to ongoing efforts and investments in the state's digital infrastructure. As the broadband landscape continues to evolve, Alaskans can look forward to improved access and connectivity in the Last Frontier.