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ACS wireless broadband begins testing this fall

ACS graphic

Alaska Communications System, better known as ACS, will be testing a new wireless broadband internet service for rural areas of the Kenai Peninsula this fall.

Heather Cavanaugh and Stan Masneri presented a brief overview of the plan to the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly at its meeting Tuesday night in Soldotna. They stressed the importance of meeting timelines set by the Federal Communications Commission, which is paying for the project through the Connect America Fund.

"And the one way you can help just is by making sure our permits get reviewed and any land leases, if we apply for those, that all of that gets reviewed in the regular, timely manner," Cavanaugh said.

"One last thing to reemphasize on that is that, if we don't meet the timelines for whatever reason, then the funding is dropped," Masneri added. "So we have to make sure that we do adhere to these timelines. So any help that can be given is greatly appreciated."

In response to an assembly member's question, Masneri explained why the cities of Kenai, Soldotna and Homer were not included in the project's coverage area.

"Okay, so to qualify for the funding on this, it has to be in a noncompete area," he said. "So if GCI is in your neighborhood, then you would not be qualified."

Areas immediately adjacent to the cities are included, as are all the communities and unincorporated areas in between. This fall, Ninilchik will be the test bed for the service, which, as Masneri explains, is akin to wireless phone service, though it is not mobile.

"It's going to basically be wireless broadband delivered to homes and business throughout the area. We have transmission towers which we'll either be leasing space on, or erecting our own," he said. "We'll fiber-feed those base towers, and then the signal will then be transmitted to the homes where there would be a receiver mounted to the outside of the home, taken in through high-speed, cat-5 wires, to a router or modem inside and then you can set up your wireless system inside your house."

ACS wants to bring the service, which is designed for homes and small businesses, to the Kenai Peninsula before expanding to other areas of the state.

"And we are hoping that our goal is in the next three years people will start to see faster speeds," Cavanaugh said. "Again, this is a long-term project, it's 2018 to 2025. We're starting the planning now, but it is going to take some time."

Cavanaugh said the cost for 10 megabit per second download service, with no data cap, would probably be around $79 a month. She also anticipates even higher data speeds, saying the 10 MBPS is the minimum required by the FCC under the federal program.